Screening and Referral for Low-Income Families’ Social Determinants of Health by US Pediatricians

Arvin Garg, William Cull, Lynn Olson, Amanda Fisher Boyd, Steven G. Federico, Benard Dreyer, Andrew D. Racine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Objective: To measure the frequency US pediatricians report screening and referring for social needs and identify pediatrician and practice-level predictors for screening and referral. Methods: Data were from the American Academy of Pediatrics Periodic Survey for October 2014 to March 2015 with a response rate of 46.6% (732/1570). Respondents reported on: 1) routine screening of low-income families for social needs, 2) attitudes toward screening, and 3) referral of low-income families for community resources. Results were analyzed by pediatrician and practice characteristics. Results: Although most pediatricians (61.6%) thought that screening is important, fewer (39.9%) reported that screening is feasible or felt prepared addressing families’ social needs (20.2%). The topics that pediatricians reported routinely asking low-income families about at visits (defined as ≥50% visits) were need for childcare (41.5%) and transportation barriers (28.4%). Pediatricians were less likely to report asking about housing (18.7%), food (18.6%), and utilities/heating (14.0%) insecurity. In multivariable analyses, pediatricians were more likely to report both that they screen and refer when they reported having more patients in financial hardship and having someone in the practice with the responsibility to connect low-income families to community services. Pediatricians who endorsed the importance of screening and who reported being prepared were also more likely to screen/refer. Conclusions: A minority of pediatricians report routinely screening for social needs. Pediatricians were more likely to report that they screen and refer if they had positive attitudes toward the importance of screening, felt prepared, and had support staff to assist families in need.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)875-883
Number of pages9
JournalAcademic Pediatrics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019


  • food insecurity
  • low-income
  • pediatrician
  • screening
  • social determinants of health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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