Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Health Care Screenings Help Identify Hunger in Pittsburgh

The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank works with local providers to better identify and assist patients without reliable access to healthy food.




photo: shutterstock

 

Prescriptions for a broad range of medications carry a simple, three-word instruction on their labels: “Take with food.” It’s a requirement that many of us never have had to consider. But it becomes an impediment to health if you don’t have any food to begin with.

That’s a specific yet illustrative example of a dilemma the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank hopes to address by working with health care providers to screen for food insecurity among patients. Taking its lead from a 2014 survey conducted by the domestic hunger relief organization Feeding America, the food bank aims to broaden the scope of health care providers during patient visits with these new initiatives.

“Food insecurity has an impact on people’s health; we know that,” says Lisa Scales, the food bank’s president and CEO. The goal is to convince health systems to incorporate questions about food security into routine health screenings; practitioners then would be able to add data about hunger to normal reports of vital signs such as temperature and blood pressure.

Determining whether or not an individual is food-insecure can be more complicated than it may seem, Scales points out. “There’s a limited amount of time that health care providers spend with people,” she says. “So the challenge [involves] addressing all of the needs that people have that address their health.”

The wording of the questions is of vital importance. Many patients are reluctant to admit that they’re eating poorly or not at all, so simply asking if a need exists often will not yield the right information. For that reason, the food bank suggests that providers read patients two statements, drawn from the U.S. Household Food Security Survey’s “Food Insecurity Screener.”

The statements are: “We worried whether our food would run out before we got money to buy more;” and, “The food that we bought just didn’t last, and we didn’t have money to get more.” Patients are asked if those statements were often, sometimes or never true in their households in the previous 12 months.

The answers to those questions can help a provider to identify patients who need further assistance. Those patients may be directed to resources such as the food bank or enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Ideally, this also can lead to health care centers and providers maintaining a food pantry on-site; Karen Dreyer, director of the Southwestern PA Food Security Partnership, cites a program underway at ProMedica Toledo Hospital in Ohio, where doctors can write food-insecure patients a prescription to be filled at the hospital’s own pantry. “That is a great option; it’s a very good way to do it,” Dreyer says.

“But our end-goal is that [these] screenings would become integral in the health care system.”

The food bank has had preliminary conversations with both UPMC and Allegheny Health Network and has begun partnering with other organizations for pilot programs. Dan Swayze, the vice president and COO of the Center for Emergency Medicine and the project manager of the CONNECT Community Paramedic Program, says he’s observed a tangible impact since implementing the food bank’s suggestions into the organization’s health screenings in February.

“We work with a lot of vulnerable patients in the county, and food security is a very vital issue for them,” Swayze says. “Thanks to the partnership, we’re now able to actually leave food behind with them after performing that assessment.”

Widespread implementation of these efforts still is a long way off, as administrative hurdles are cleared and management strategies are devised. The potential impact of those two simple statements, however, could be enormous in addressing one of the key social determinants of health. 
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Nominate the Best! Pittsburgh Magazine's 2018 Readers' Poll

What is Pittsburgh's best breakfast joint? Dive bar? Yoga studio? Local singer? Meteorologist? It's time to nominate your local favorites in multiple categories.

Amazon Includes Pittsburgh in its Top-20 List for HQ2

The list of 20 was narrowed from 238 proposals Amazon received in October. So which other cities made the cut?

Restaurant Review: or, The Whale

The Downtown restaurant is a captivating, if costly, catch.

Celebrating 5 Pittsburghers Who Built Careers Behind the Bar

Pittsburgh is a city that celebrates its neighborhood bars. In some of those spots, second- and third-generation regulars are pulling up their stools to be served by someone who started pouring drinks decades ago.

Second Chances: Crossroads in the Kitchen

People working to overcome substance abuse problems and ex-offenders discover a welcoming environment in restaurant kitchens.

How to Pamper Yourself in Pittsburgh

Looking to beat the winter doldrums? We round up the best places and experiences for a little personal indulgence.

Miss Pusadee's Garden? We Have Some Good News.

The Tongdee family now operates Burgh Thai in Verona.

The Growing Popularity of Shooting a Clay Pigeon

Skeet shooting is taking off as a favored western Pennsylvania hobby.

Steelers' No. 1 Problem Makes Others Pale in Comparison

Until they solve it, the Steelers are more of a Fantasy League team than they are a Super Bowl team.

New series ‘$1’ to be filmed in Pittsburgh

The mystery thriller is latest to cash in on the city’s filming opportunities.

Andrew McCutchen: Thanks for the Memories

It's hard to overemphasize McCutchen's impact on the Pirates and its fan base.

How to Make a Mt. Washington Wedding Proposal Even Better

A lot of grooms-to-be propose on Mt. Washington. Not many decorate beforehand.

Bitter End’s Chicken Dinner Fundraiser

Chefs Becca Hegarty and Rick Easton to cook comfort food to help Hegarty’s mother.

Former Art Institute Housing to Be Converted into Condos

Downtown is booming as plans develop for yet another new apartment building.

Big Ben Not Ready to Retire –– But He's Making Plans

Ben Roethlisberger will do as many former athletes have and start the next phase of his career with a dining venture.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Amazon Includes Pittsburgh in its Top-20 List for HQ2

Amazon Includes Pittsburgh in its Top-20 List for HQ2

The list of 20 was narrowed from 238 proposals Amazon received in October. So which other cities made the cut?

Comments

New series ‘$1’ to be filmed in Pittsburgh

New series ‘$1’ to be filmed in Pittsburgh

The mystery thriller is latest to cash in on the city’s filming opportunities.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Miss Pusadee's Garden? We Have Some Good News.

Miss Pusadee's Garden? We Have Some Good News.

The Tongdee family now operates Burgh Thai in Verona.

Comments

Bitter End’s Chicken Dinner Fundraiser

Bitter End’s Chicken Dinner Fundraiser

Chefs Becca Hegarty and Rick Easton to cook comfort food to help Hegarty’s mother.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Nominate the Best! Pittsburgh Magazine's 2018 Readers' Poll

Nominate the Best! Pittsburgh Magazine's 2018 Readers' Poll

What is Pittsburgh's best breakfast joint? Dive bar? Yoga studio? Local singer? Meteorologist? It's time to nominate your local favorites in multiple categories.

Comments

Best of the ‘Burgh Gift Guide for 2017

Best of the ‘Burgh Gift Guide for 2017

Here are some of our favorite ‘Burgh-inspired gifts for him, her, kids, foodies and more.

Comments


Tequila Cowboy: Fine For Some, Apparently a Bad Idea for Others

Tequila Cowboy: Fine For Some, Apparently a Bad Idea for Others

The bar, which hosted a bizarre incident involving a top Steelers coach, is fine enough for the post-collegiate set.

Comments

Five Essential January Events in Pittsburgh

Five Essential January Events in Pittsburgh

Country crooners, unsung pop icons, on-ice acrobatics and more winter warmers.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Steelers' No. 1 Problem Makes Others Pale in Comparison

Steelers' No. 1 Problem Makes Others Pale in Comparison

Until they solve it, the Steelers are more of a Fantasy League team than they are a Super Bowl team.

Comments

Steelers Must Avoid ‘Captain Ahab’ Approach to the Jaguars

Steelers Must Avoid ‘Captain Ahab’ Approach to the Jaguars

The Patriots are to the Steelers what Moby Dick was to Captain Ahab and that kind of obsession can backfire.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The Post is Quite Good, I, Tonya is Even Better

The Post is Quite Good, I, Tonya is Even Better

Reviews of "The Post," "I, Tonya" and "The Commuter," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments

Documentary Week at Row House Brings Fresh, Invigorating Films

Documentary Week at Row House Brings Fresh, Invigorating Films

Reviews of "Rat Film" and "Big Sonia," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
How to Make a Mt. Washington Wedding Proposal Even Better

How to Make a Mt. Washington Wedding Proposal Even Better

A lot of grooms-to-be propose on Mt. Washington. Not many decorate beforehand.

Comments

These Elaborate Proposals Were Sure to Get a “Yes”

These Elaborate Proposals Were Sure to Get a “Yes”

Thinking of popping the question? Take a note from these grooms-to-be who set the bar high.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Former Art Institute Housing to Be Converted into Condos

Former Art Institute Housing to Be Converted into Condos

Downtown is booming as plans develop for yet another new apartment building.

Comments

Lesson Learned: How Design Changed a North Allegheny Classroom

Lesson Learned: How Design Changed a North Allegheny Classroom

Frustrated by his sterile white classroom, teacher Greg Geibel earned an A+ from students when he transformed the space into something resembling a modern coffeehouse.

Comments