Asking parents just two simple screening questions could help health care providers and social workers to easily and quickly identify families whose young children are suffering from hunger, enabling early interventions that could prevent serious health consequences, according to a new study led by University of Maryland School of Medicine researchers. The study, published July 1 in the journal Pediatrics, analyzed data gathered from more than 30,000 families nationwide, about a quarter of whom suffered from hunger.
The researchers examined whether the time-consuming, 18-question Household Food Security Survey provided by the federal government could be shortened and still be effective in identifying hungry families. They found that just the first two statements, with which families were asked to agree or disagree, were key: "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."
The researchers found that 92.5 percent of the hungry families answered "yes" to the first question, and 81.9 percent of the families answered yes to the second, meaning that positive answers to those questions alone could accurately identify most families affected by hunger.
Such an efficient screening test can save time and get help to more hungry families faster, according to lead author Erin Hager, Ph.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "This paper is the evidence that it works," Dr. Hager says. "Now, this can immediately be used by any social service agency or any clinic to more quickly get hungry children connected with the assistance they need to stay nourished, healthy and developmentally on track."
Hunger can be invisible in American children because they do not physically appear skinny or emaciated, according to senior author Mau
|Contact: Karen Buckelew|
University of Maryland Medical Center