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Psychometric and pragmatic properties of social risk screening tools: A systematic review

N.B. Henrikson, P.R. Blasi, K.D. Mettert, M.B. Nguyen, C. Walsh-Bailey, J. Macuiba, L.M. Gottlieb, C.C. Lewis
Am J Prev Med

Context: Health systems increasingly are exploring implementation of standardized social risk assessments. Implementation requires screening tools both with evidence of validity and reliability (psychometric properties) and that are low cost, easy to administer, readable, and brief (pragmatic properties). These properties for social risk assessment tools are not well understood and could help guide selection of assessment tools and future research. Evidence acquisition: The systematic review was conducted during 2018 and included literature from PubMed and CINAHL published between 2000 and May 18, 2018. Included studies were based in the U.S., included tools that addressed at least 2 social risk factors (economic stability, education, social and community context, healthcare access, neighborhood and physical environment, or food), and were administered in a clinical setting. Manual literature searching was used to identify empirical uses of included screening tools. Data on psychometric and pragmatic properties of each tool were abstracted. Evidence synthesis: Review of 6,838 unique citations yielded 21 unique screening tools and 60 articles demonstrating empirical uses of the included screening tools. Data on psychometric properties were sparse, and few tools reported use of gold standard measurement development methods. Review of pragmatic properties indicated that tools were generally low cost, written for low-literacy populations, and easy to administer. Conclusions: Multiple low-cost, low literacy tools are available for social risk screening in clinical settings, but psychometric data are very limited. More research is needed on clinic-based screening tool reliability and validity as these factors should influence both adoption and utility.

Supplement information: This article is part of a supplement entitled Identifying and Intervening on Social Needs in Clinical Settings: Evidence and Evidence Gaps, which is sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Kaiser Permanente, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Henrikson NB, Blasi PR, Dorsey CN, et al. Psychometric and pragmatic properties of social risk screening tools: A systematic review. Am J Prev Med. 2019;57(6):S13-S24. DOI:

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Publication year
Resource type
Peer Reviewed Research
Screening research
Social Determinant of Health
Built Environment
Economic Security
Health Care Access
Housing Stability
Legal Services
Not Specified
Social Support/Social Isolation
Study design
SIREN Resources