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Two-question Survey Can Help Identify Hungry Children

Among the 18 different questions families were asked, two in particular helped the researchers identify which families were food insecure.

A two-question screening can help healthcare providers identify families whose children are suffering from hunger, enabling early interventions that can prevent serious health consequences, according to findings from a large-scale study published in Pediatrics.

Led by Erin R. Hager, PhD, from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the study analyzed data gathered from more than 30,000 families nationwide, 23% of which were food insecure (FI)—meaning they suffered from hunger.

The researchers examined whether the 18-question Household Food Security Survey (HFSS) provided by the government will still be effective in identifying households at risk for FI if it is shortened. Hager and colleagues developed a screen based on affirmative HFSS responses among food-insecurefamilies, and evaluated for sensitivity, specificity, and convergentvalidity.

They found that the first two statements, with which families were asked to agree or disagree, to be the most important: “Within the past 12 months we worried whether our food would run out before we got money to buy more;” and “Within the past 12 months the food we bought just didn't last and we didn't have money to get more,” according to an online report.

Researchers found that 92.5% of the hungry families answered yes to the first question, and 81.9% of the families answered yes to the second. An affirmative response to either of these questions had a sensitivityof 97% and specificity of 83%, they said, and was associated with increased risk of reported poor/fair child health, hospitalizations in their lifetime, and developmental risk.

Therefore, the two-item screen was found to be “sensitive, specific, and valid amonglow-income families with young children.” It “rapidlyidentifies households at risk for FI, enabling providers totarget services that ameliorate the health and developmental consequences associated with FI.”