Social Needs Assessment and Linkage to Community Health Workers in a Large Urban Hospital System

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Objectives: Identifying social needs is a growing priority in primary care, but there is significant variation in how patients access services to meet such needs. This study identifies predictors of successful linkage with a community health worker (CHW) among patients with social needs seen in an outpatient setting. Methods: This study uses a cross-sectional analysis of social needs assessments administered in an urban health system between April 2018 and December 2019. Social needs included: food insecurity, housing quality, housing instability, healthcare cost, healthcare related transportation, utilities, care for dependents, legal assistance, safety, and getting along with household members. Patients with at least 1 social need and accepting help were included in the analysis. On contact with a CHW, patients were entered into a separate database. The primary outcome was successful “linkage,” defined by having a positive social needs assessment in the medical record and a corresponding record in the CHW database. Multivariate logistic regression was used to assess predictors of linkage. Results: Among patients with at least 1 social need accepting help, 25% (758/3064) were linked to a CHW. Positive predictors included female gender (OR 1.28 [95% CI 1.01-1.63]), Spanish language preference compared to English (1.51 [1.14-1.03]), and having a food related need (1.35 [1.03-1.79]). Negative predictors included age 18 to 65 (0.34 [0.17-0.71] for age 18-24) and 0 to 5 (0.45 [0.24-0.78]) compared to over 65, non-Hispanic White race compared to Hispanic race (0.39 [0.18-0.84]), and having needs of getting along with household members (0.52 [0.38-0.71]) and safety (0.64 [0.42-0.98]). Conclusions: Twenty-five percent of patients who had at least 1 social need and were accepting help had a successful CHW linkage. Predictors of linkage suggest areas of further system-level improvements to screening and referral interventions to target at risk patients and communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Primary Care and Community Health
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023


  • community health
  • primary care
  • social determinants of health
  • social needs
  • underserved communities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Community and Home Care
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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