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International Journal of Family Medicine
Volume 2011, Article ID 812182, 7 pages
Research Article

Development of a Tool to Identify Poverty in a Family Practice Setting: A Pilot Study

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

Received 14 January 2011; Revised 9 March 2011; Accepted 11 March 2011

Academic Editor: Stewart Mercer

Copyright © 2011 Vanessa Brcic et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Objective. 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. Methods. 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. Results. 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. Conclusions. Asking patients directly about poverty may help identify patients with increased needs in primary care.