Implementing Social Risk Screening and Referral to Resources in the NICU

Pediatrics. 2023 Apr 1;151(4):e2022058975. doi: 10.1542/peds.2022-058975.


Objective: Social risk screening is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, but this practice is underutilized in NICUs. To address this gap in social care, we aimed to increase rates of: (1) systematic social risk screening and (2) connection with community resources, each to ≥50% over a 14-month period.

Methods: We conducted a quality improvement initiative from November 2020 to January 2022. We adapted a screening tool and used Plan-Do-Study-Act cycles to integrate screening and referral to resources into clinical workflow. Primary outcome measures included the percentage of (1) families screened and (2) connection with resources. We examined screening by maternal race/ethnicity and primary language. Process measures were (1) time from admission to screening and (2) percentage of referrals provided to families reporting unmet needs and requesting assistance. We used statistical process control to assess change over time and χ2 tests to compare screening by race/ethnicity and language.

Results: The rates of systematic screening increased from 0% to 49%. Among 103 families screened, 84% had ≥1, and 64% had ≥2 unmet needs, with a total of 221 needs reported. Education, employment, transportation, and food were the most common needs. Screening rates did not vary by race/ethnicity or language. Among families requesting assistance, 98% received referrals. The iterative improvement of a written resource guide and community partnerships led to increased rates of connection with resources from 21% to 52%.

Conclusion: Leveraging existing staff, our social risk screening and referral intervention built the capacity to address the high burden of unmet needs among NICU families.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Family*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal*
  • Mass Screening
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Social Support