Few NICUs Regularly Screen for Social Determinants of Health

No hospital-level factors (e.g., region, size) were associated with conducting screening

newborn baby girl getting light therapy inside incubator at hospital
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WEDNESDAY, Dec. 28, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- Fewer than one in four U.S. neonatal care units (NICUs) conducts standardized screening for social determinants of health (SDH), according to a study published in the December issue of Hospital Pediatrics.

Erika G. Cordova-Ramos, M.D., from Boston Medical Center, and colleagues assessed the national prevalence and predictors of standardized SDH screening in U.S. level 2 to 4 NICUs. The analysis included 100 hospitals with level 2 to 4 NICUs randomly selected among each of five U.S. regions. Clinical leaders were surveyed from January to November 2021.

The researchers found that 23 percent of U.S. level 2 to 4 NICUs reported standardized SDH screening. There were no associations observed between hospital characteristics (e.g., region, size, or safety-net status) with implementation of screening. Among existing screening programs, systematic screening is conducted early in the hospitalization (84 percent) and is primarily led by social workers (92 percent). While there was variation in the type of screening tool, there was substantial overlap among domains incorporated in the screening. Barriers to screening implementation included perceived lack of resources, inadequate referrals, and lack of an inpatient screening tool.

"Given the extended opportunities for provider-family interaction over the prolonged neonatal hospitalization, this represents a missed opportunity to address the high burden of unmet social needs among families of high-risk infants," Cordova-Ramos said in a statement.

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Lori Solomon

Lori Solomon

Published on December 28, 2022

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