Screening Discordance and Characteristics of Patients With Housing-Related Social Risks

Am J Prev Med. 2021 Jul;61(1):e1-e12. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2021.01.027. Epub 2021 Mar 27.


Introduction: Healthcare systems are increasingly interested in identifying patients' housing-related risks, but minimal information exists to inform screening question selection. The primary study aim is to evaluate discordance among 5 housing-related screening questions used in health care.

Methods: This was a cross-sectional multisite survey of social risks used in a convenience sample of adults seeking care for themselves or their child at 7 primary care clinics and 4 emergency departments across 9 states (2018-2019). Housing-related risks were measured using 2 questions from the Accountable Health Communities screening tool (current/anticipated housing instability, current housing quality problems) and 3 from the Children's HealthWatch recommended housing instability screening measures (prior 12-month: rent/mortgage strain, number of moves, current/recent homelessness). The 2-sided Fisher's exact tests analyzed housing-related risks and participant characteristics; logistic regression explored associations with reported health (2019-2020).

Results: Of 835 participants, 52% screened positive for ≥1 housing-related risk (n=430). Comparing the tools, 32.8% (n=274) screened discordant: 11.9% (n=99) screened positive by Children's HealthWatch questions but negative by Accountable Health Communities, and 21.0% (n=175) screened positive by the Accountable Health Communities tool but negative by Children's HealthWatch (p<0.001). Worse health was associated with screening positive for current/anticipated housing instability (AOR=0.56, 95% CI=0.32, 0.96) or current/recent homelessness (AOR=0.57, 95% CI=0.34, 0.96).

Conclusions: The 5 housing questions captured different housing-related risks, contributed to different health consequences, and were relevant to different subpopulations. Before implementing housing-related screening initiatives, health systems should understand how specific measures surface distinct housing-related barriers. Measure selection should depend on program goals and intervention resources.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Housing*
  • Humans
  • Ill-Housed Persons*
  • Mass Screening