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Pilot Feasibility Stud


BACKGROUND: Food insecurity (FI) is a significant public health problem. Possible sequelae of prolonged food insecurity include kidney disease, obesity, and diabetes. Our objective was to assess the feasibility of a partnership between Henry Ford Health System (HFHS) and Gleaners Community Foodbank of Southeastern Michigan to implement and evaluate a food supplementation intervention initiated in a hospital outpatient clinic setting.

METHODS: We established a protocol for using the Hunger Vital Signs to screen HFHS internal medicine patients for food insecurity and established the data sharing infrastructure and agreements necessary for an HFHS-Gleaners partnership that would allow home delivery of food to consenting patients. We evaluated the food supplementation program using a quasi-experimental design and constructing a historical comparison group using the electronic medical record. Patients identified as food insecure through screening were enrolled in the program and received food supplementation twice per month for a total of 12 months, mostly by home delivery. The feasibility outcomes included successful clinic-based screening and enrollment and successful food delivery to consenting patients. Our evaluation compared healthcare utilization between the intervention and historical comparison group during a 12-month observation period using a difference-in-differences (DID) analysis.

RESULTS: Of 1691 patients screened, 353 patients (20.9%) met the criteria for FI, of which 340/353 (96.3%) consented, and 256/340 (75.3%) were matched and had data sufficient for analysis. Food deliveries were successfully made to 89.9% of participant households. At follow-up, the intervention group showed greater reductions in emergency department visits than the comparison group, -41.5% and -25.3% reduction, respectively. Similar results were observed for hospitalizations, -55.9% and -17.6% reduction for intervention and control groups, respectively. DID regression analysis also showed lower trends in ED visits and hospitalizations for the intervention group compared to the comparison group.

CONCLUSIONS: Results suggest that community-health system partnerships to address patient-reported food insecurity are feasible and potentially could reduce healthcare utilization in these patients. A larger, randomized trial may be the next step in fully evaluating this intervention, perhaps with more outcomes (e.g., medication adherence), and additional covariates (e.g., housing insecurity and financial strain).

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