Objectives: To test the diagnostic accuracy of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended food insecurity screener.
Methods: We conducted prospective diagnostic accuracy studies between July and November 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. We recruited convenience samples of adults from adult and pediatric emergency departments (12-month recall study: n = 188; 30-day recall study: n = 154). A self-administered survey included the 6-item Household Food Security Screen (gold standard), the validated 2-item Hunger Vital Sign (HVS; often, sometimes, never response categories), and the 2-item AAP tool (yes-or-no response categories).
Results: Food insecurity was prevalent (12-month recall group: 46%; 30-day group: 39%). Sensitivity of the AAP tool using 12-month and 30-day recall was, respectively, 76% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 65%, 85%) and 72% (95% CI = 57%, 84%). The HVS sensitivity was significantly higher than the AAP tool (12-month: 94% [95% CI = 86%, 98%; P = .002]; 30-day: 92% [95% CI = 79%, 98%; P = .02]).
Conclusions: The AAP tool missed nearly a quarter of food-insecure adults screened in the hospital; the HVS screening tool was more sensitive. Public health implications. Health care systems adopting food insecurity screening should optimize ease of administration and sensitivity of the screening tool.