Food insecurity has profound impacts on children's health and diet quality. Pediatric clinics routinely screen for food insecurity, presenting a unique opportunity to intervene; however, food assistance and education interventions targeting families in clinical settings are lacking.
The objective of this study was to understand the current landscape and perceptions of clinical-community partnerships to address food insecurity among pediatricians and food assistance program community partners (CPs), to inform the development of a food assistance and education intervention.
Study Design, Setting, Participants
Pediatricians at a primary care clinic in Rhode Island participated in a cross-sectional survey (n = 28), and a subsequent structured virtual interview (n = 14). CPs (n = 8) participated in interviews in the spring of 2021.
Pediatricians reported on their demographics and previous nutrition training, including six nutrition/food assistance knowledge questions and comfort in assessing food security on a scale of 1-10, from “not at all comfortable” to “incredibly comfortable”. Descriptive statistics were used to characterize survey responses. Interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim, and double-coded to identify emerging themes through an inductive approach using NVivo.
Survey participants were 82% female and 79% White, with 89% reporting no formal nutrition training or education. Approximately 73% of pediatricians responded correctly to nutrition/food assistance knowledge questions. When asked to rate their comfort with explaining food resource programs to patients, pediatricians rated themselves as 3 out of 10, on average. Two-thirds of CPs reported communicating with healthcare providers about their programs, and many perceived their programs and services as unknown to pediatricians. Preliminary themes included: shared responsibility of addressing food insecurity, the need for effective clinical-community partnerships and communication, and more food assistance training opportunities for pediatricians.
There appears to be a lack of coordinated clinical-community approaches to addressing food insecurity. These results underscore the need for interventions to enhance pediatrician knowledge and comfort discussing nutrition/food assistance programs.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education; Rhode Island Foundation