Screening for poverty and intervening in a primary care setting: An acceptability and feasibility study

Fam Pract

Background: A movement is emerging to encourage health providers and health organizations to take action on the social determinants of health. However, few evidence-based interventions exist. Digital tools have not been examined in depth.

Objective: To assess the acceptability and feasibility of integrating, within routine primary care, screening for poverty and an online tool that helps identify financial benefits.

Methods: The setting was a Community Health Centre serving a large number of low-income individuals in Toronto, Canada. Physicians were encouraged to use the tool at every possible encounter during a 1-month period. A link to the tool was easily accessible, and reminder emails were circulated regularly. This mixed-methods study used a combination of pre-intervention and post-intervention surveys, focus groups and interviews.

Results: Thirteen physicians participated (81.25% of all) and represented a range of genders and years in practice. Physicians reported a strong awareness of the importance of identifying poverty as a health concern, but low confidence in their ability to address poverty. The tool was used with 63 patients over a 1-month period. Although screening and intervening on poverty is logistically challenging in regular workflows, online tools could assist patients and health providers identify financial benefits quickly. Future interventions should include more robust follow-up.

Conclusions: Our study contributes to the evidence based on addressing the social determinants of health in clinical settings. Future approaches could involve routine screening, engaging other members of the team in intervening and following up, and better integration with the electronic health record.

Pinto AD, Bondy M, Rucchetto A, Ihnat J, Kaufman A. Screening for poverty and intervening in a primary care setting: An acceptability and feasibility study. Fam Pract. 2019. PMID: 30649280. DOI: 10.1093/fampra/cmy129.

Publication Year: 
Resource Type: 
Peer Reviewed Research
Study Design: 
Pre-post without Comparison Group
Other Study Design
Social Determinant of Health: 
Economic Security
Screening Research: