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Predictors of elevated social risk in pediatric emergency department patients and families

A.C. Rucker, A. Watson, G. Badolato, M. Boyle, C. Hendrix, L. Jarvis, S.J. Patel, M.K. Goyal
Pediatr Emerg Care

Objective: This study aimed to identify predictors of high unmet social needs among pediatric emergency department (ED) patients. We hypothesized that obesity, frequent nonurgent visits, reported food insecurity, or an at-risk chief complaint (CC) would predict elevated social risk.

Methods: We administered a tablet-based survey assessing unmet social needs in 13 domains to caregivers of patients aged 0 to 17 years presenting to an urban pediatric ED. Responses were used to tabulate a social risk score (SRS). We performed multivariable logistic regression to measure associations between a high SRS (≥3) and obesity, frequent nonurgent visits, food insecurity, or an at-risk CC (physical abuse, sexual abuse, assault, mammalian bites, reproductive/sexual health complaints, intoxication, ingestion/poisoning, psychiatric/behavioral complaints, or any complaint triaged as "least urgent").

Results: Five hundred seventy caregivers completed the survey. Eighty-one percent reported at least one unmet social need, and 33% identified ≥3 social needs. Caregivers of patients with an at-risk CC had twice the odds of a high SRS (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 1.8; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.0-3.3). Caregivers of patients reporting food insecurity had 4 times the odds of a high SRS (aOR, 4.3; 95% CI, 2.5-7.3). Neither obesity (aOR, 1.5; 95% CI, 0.9-2.6) nor frequent nonurgent visits (aOR, 0.9; 95% CI, 0.4-1.9) were predictive of a high SRS.

Conclusions: Unmet social needs are prevalent among caregivers of pediatric ED patients, supporting universal screening in this population. Patients with an at-risk CC or reported food insecurity might benefit from proactive intervention. Future studies should examine optimal methods for ED-based interventions that address social determinants of health.

Rucker AC, Watson A, Badolato G, et al. Predictors of elevated social risk in pediatric emergency department patients and families. Pediatr Emerg Care. 2021 Jul 2. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000002489. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34225329.

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Publication year
Resource type
Peer Reviewed Research
Screening research
Social Determinant of Health
Not Specified
Study design
Other Study Design