Acute Health Care Utilization among Food-Insecure Children in Primary Care Practices

In the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, Deepak Palakshappa and colleagues, including Chris Feudtner and Alexander Fiks, investigate the relationship between food insecurity and child health care utilization. They test whether differences in child health care utilization can predict household food insecurity and whether food insecurity is associated with subsequent acute health care use. This prospective cohort study involved 3,335 children screened for food insecurity at three-year well-child visits in three urban practices. The authors evaluated acute care use one year before and after food insecurity screening. Prior to screening, food-insecure participants had fewer acute primary care visits, but there were no differences in emergency department visits or hospitalizations. Overall, child demographic characteristics and health care use did not predict household food insecurity. For those who screened positive, there were no differences in subsequent acute care use. This study suggests that the risk of food insecurity among three-year olds cannot be reliably predicted based on acute health care use patterns, and food insecurity may not be associated with subsequent acute health care use.