Youths' health-related social problems: concerns often overlooked during the medical visit
OBJECTIVE: The objectives of this study were to (1) measure the prevalence of health-related social problems among adolescent and young adult primary care patients; (2) estimate previous screening and referral experiences; and (3) examine participant attitudes toward screening and referral.
METHODS: Data were collected as part of a cross-sectional study conducted in an urban young adult clinic. Patients aged 15 to 25 years completed a computerized questionnaire screening for health-related social problems in nine social domains. In addition, participants answered questions about their previous screening experiences, need for referrals, and their experience using the system.
RESULTS: Seventy-six percent (304/401) of youth screened positive for at least one major problem, including healthcare access (37%), housing (34%), and food security (29%). Forty-seven percent (190/401) experienced major problems in two or more social domains. The prevalence of screening in the past year for each domain averaged 26%; 3% were screened in all nine domains in the previous 12 months and 33% were not screened in any domain. Overall, 75% needed a referral within the previous year, and 42% identified at least one unmet referral need. The majority (84%) of participants reported that it was acceptable to screen for these problems.
CONCLUSION: Prevalence of health-related social problems among youth is high. The majority needed at least one referral for a social need in the previous year. Primary care physicians would benefit from improved systems for screening and referral of health-related social problems in order to create a comprehensive medical home for their patients.