A New Clinical Tool for Assessing & Addressing Poverty in Primary Care Settings

The Centre of Effective Practice recently released a guide to improve screening for financial need and support these patients. 

Poverty puts patients at higher risk for most chronic diseases, mental illnesses, and even accidents and trauma. Poverty: A Clinical Tool for Primary Care directs providers to use key questions to assess their patients’ living situations and current benefits and includes links to key government and community resources to support positive interventions.”

The guide outlines several useful resources for patients, sorted by province, to help physicians direct patients to the appropriate social support they need. The guide is available as PDF or can be incorporated into the EMR to make it easily accessible to providers.

While this tool is an exciting step forward in identifying and addressing the social determinants of health, more support is needed to take this work beyond. In the guide, Dr. Gary Bloch encourages primary care physicians to not only assess their patients but also to help them access the resources they need. However, given their already overburdened workload, it may be challenging to expect primary care physicians to undertake this effort alone. This is a great example of how community-based care can be a game-changer in the delivery of holistic primary care. In particular, CHCs, with their interdisciplinary teams, would be the ideal environment for these patients to get more comprehensive support for these types of assessments and social prescribing. 

As we move towards a more holistic model of care and begin addressing the underlying social factors affecting our health, we hope that CHCs will play a bigger role in primary care.