Enhancing Accurate Identification of Food Insecurity Using Quality-Improvement Techniques

Division of General and Community Pediatrics, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH 45229, USA.
PEDIATRICS (Impact Factor: 5.47). 02/2012; 129(2):e504-10. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2011-1153
Source: PubMed


Infants who live in households experiencing food insecurity are at risk for negative health and developmental outcomes. Despite large numbers of households within our population experiencing food insecurity, identification of household food insecurity during standard clinical care is rare. The objective of this study was to use quality-improvement methods to increase identification of household food insecurity by the second-year pediatric residents working in the Pediatric Primary Care Center from 1.9% to 15.0% within 6 months. A secondary aim was to increase the proportion of second-year pediatric residents identifying food insecurity.
A team was formed to identify key drivers thought to be critical to the process of identifying food insecurity during well-child care. This project addressed 5 key drivers and tested interventions based on these drivers over a 6-month period at a hospital-based primary care site that serves ∼15 000 children from underserved neighborhoods. Tests included implementing an evidence-based electronic screen for food insecurity, educational interventions to improve understanding of food insecurity, empowerment exercises targeting clinicians and families, and gaining buy-in and support from ancillary personnel.
Implementation of these changes led to an increase in the identification rate of household food insecurity from 1.9% to 11.2% over the 6 months (P < .01). The proportion of residents identifying food insecurity increased from 37.5% to 91.9% (P < .01).
Application of quality-improvement methods in a primary care clinic increased ability to effectively screen and positively identify households with food insecurity in this population.

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    • "In contrast to BMI assessment, assessing food security requires no equipment and little training, is not systemically conducted in other settings, and identifies a condition that Head Start has the capability to address with its limited resources. A short, validated instrument exists to identify food insecure households (26), and this instrument is not regularly used in WIC or pediatric offices (28). Participation in programs such as SNAP and WIC may help to address food insecurity (29). "
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    ABSTRACT: Head Start is a federally funded early childhood education program that serves just over 900,000 US children, many of whom are at risk for obesity, are living in food insecure households, or both. The objective of this study was to describe Head Start practices related to assessing body mass index (BMI), addressing food insecurity, and determining portion sizes at meals. A survey was mailed in 2008 to all eligible Head Start programs (N = 1,810) as part of the Study of Healthy Activity and Eating Practices and Environments in Head Start. We describe program directors' responses to questions about BMI, food insecurity, and portion sizes. The response rate was 87% (N = 1,583). Nearly all programs (99.5%) reported obtaining height and weight data, 78% of programs calculated BMI for all children, and 50% of programs discussed height and weight measurements with all families. In 14% of programs, directors reported that staff often or very often saw children who did not seem to be getting enough to eat at home; 55% saw this sometimes, 26% rarely, and 5% never. Fifty-four percent of programs addressed perceived food insecurity by giving extra food to children and families. In 39% of programs, staff primarily decided what portion sizes children received at meals, and in 55% the children primarily decided on their own portions. Head Start programs should consider moving resources from assessing BMI to assessing household food security and providing training and technical assistance to help staff manage children's portion sizes.
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    ABSTRACT: To determine the extent to which physicians and nurse practitioners monitor household food insecurity (FI) of families with children, and to examine factors that influence FI monitoring. A 2007 mail survey of family practice and pediatric physicians and nurse practitioners in the Portland, Oregon, region yielded 186 responses. Factor analysis was used to identify barriers to asking about FI. Regression analysis was used to determine whether monitoring of household food status was predicted by those barriers, attentiveness to potential FI indicators, and other variables. Most respondents did not routinely inquire about household FI during clinic visits. However, 88.8% expressed willingness to use a standardized screening question, if available. Monitoring of household food nutritional quality was significantly predicted by one of three identified barriers (providers' time availability). Monitoring of household food sufficiency was predicted by years in practice, attentiveness to FI indicators, and the remaining two identified barriers (inadequate knowledge about FI, discomfort in discussing FI). Routine monitoring of patients' household FI by health care providers is an underutilized strategy for reducing this condition, which poses serious risks to children's health and development. Addressing providers' concerns and introducing standardized screening procedures can increase their monitoring behaviors.
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