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Int J Family Med. 2011;2011:812182. doi: 10.1155/2011/812182. Epub 2011 May 26.

Development of a tool to identify poverty in a family practice setting: a pilot study.

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Department of Family Practice, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, 3rd floor David Strangway Building, 5950 University Boulevard, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z3.



The goal of this pilot study was to develop and field-test questions for use as a poverty case-finding tool to assist primary care providers in identifying poverty in clinical practice.


156 questionnaires were completed by a convenience sample of urban and rural primary care patients presenting to four family practices in British Columbia, Canada. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses compared questionnaire responses with low-income cut-off (LICO) levels calculated for each respondent.


35% of respondents were below the "poverty line" (LICO). The question "Do you (ever) have difficulty making ends meet at the end of the month?" was identified as a good predictor of poverty (sensitivity 98%; specificity 60%; OR 32.3, 95% CI 5.4-191.5). Multivariate analysis identified a 3-item case-finding tool including 2 additional questions about food and housing security (sensitivity 64.3%; specificity 94.4%; OR 30.2, 95% CI 10.3-88.1). 85% of below-LICO respondents felt that poverty screening was important and 67% felt comfortable speaking to their family physician about poverty.


Asking patients directly about poverty may help identify patients with increased needs in primary care.

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