Addressing Food Insecurity in Family Medicine and Medical Education

Fam Med. 2017 Nov;49(10):765-771.


Background and objectives: Food insecurity is associated with poor health outcomes, yet is not routinely addressed in health care. This study was conducted to determine if education regarding food insecurity as a health issue could modify knowledge, attitudes, and clinical behavior.

Methods: Educational sessions on food insecurity and its impact on health were conducted in 2015 at three different family medicine residency programs and one medical school. A pre/post survey was given immediately before and after this session. Attendees were encouraged to identify and implement individual and system-based changes to integrate food insecurity screening and referrals into their clinical practices. Participants completed follow-up surveys approximately 1 year later, and the authors obtained systems-level data from electronic health records and databases. Pre/post means (SD) were compared using t-tests. The numbers of patients screened and referred were calculated.

Results: Eighty-five participants completed the pre/post survey during the educational sessions (51 medical students, 29 residents, 5 faculty). Self-reported knowledge of food insecurity, resources, and willingness to discuss with patients increased (P<0.0001 for all). Each program identified a feasible systems-based change. Follow-up surveys demonstrated increased discussion of food insecurity during clinical visits and referrals to food resources. Over 1,600 patients were screened for food insecurity as a result of systems-based changes.

Conclusions: Educational interventions focused on the role of food insecurity in health can produce improvements in knowledge and attitudes toward addressing food insecurity, increase discussions with patients about food insecurity, and result in measurable patient and systems-level changes.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • California
  • Clinical Competence
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical, Graduate*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate*
  • Family Practice / education*
  • Food Assistance
  • Food Supply*
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Poverty
  • Referral and Consultation