The Weekly Dose
September 10, 2020
Welcome to The Weekly Dose! Each week, we will review one scientific article, summarizing the research and providing key takeaways. Our goal in this endeavor is to make science understandable and accessible to all.
This week we reviewed a study that highlights the critical role of Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) in the US healthcare system. FQHCs are safety-net organizations that deliver comprehensive healthcare services in underserved areas, and have been critical institutions in responding to the COVID-19 crisis. The study, published in The Journal of Pediatrics, detailed the results of a survey that was designed to estimate food insecurity, and the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to exacerbate it, on Texas families with young children. The study’s investigators sampled 200 families who used pediatric-care services at two locations of the largest FQHC in Austin, Texas, where a majority of the patients are Hispanic and from low-income families. Pediatricians screened parents on their alignment with two statements: In the last 12 months...
  • We worried whether our food would run out before we got money to buy more.
  • The food we bought just didn’t last, and we didn’t have money to get more.
Food-insecure households were ones in which respondents answered “often” or “sometimes,” as opposed to “never,” to the statements. (See Table II.) Such families were then asked whether their food insecurity started or worsened in the period of the pandemic.
Eighty-two percent of participants identified as Hispanic. About 4 in 9 respondents expressed worry about running out of food, whereas 3 in 10 described exhausting their food without the means to purchase more. The vast majority of responses indicated that the moderate condition (i.e., “sometimes true”) held true. Ninety-four percent of respondents from food-insecure households reported that these problems worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. Responses to several optional interview questions on food insecurity suggested that job loss, work interruption, and hours reductions were key contributors. Additional statistical analysis indicated that Hispanic ethnicity, Spanish as a first language among caregivers, and participation in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) were all associated with food insecurity.
Key Takeaways: 

  • Language, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds of families with young children utilizing pediatric care services at FQHCs in Texas significantly affect food security. 
  • Although the results may not be generalized beyond the population studied (largely Hispanic households that rely on Texas FQHCs), they do suggest that COVID-19 has amplified the problem of food insecurity.
  • Food insecurity is at least in part attributable to macroeconomic conditions, which affect local employment.
  • Culturally-competent, multi-lingual services should be available at FQHCs to assist low-income populations to combat the non-economic causes of food insecurity.

Who is VSC?

Vital Statistics Consulting (VSC) is a healthcare consultancy that specializes in the evaluation of policies and programs and provides independent, rigorous, innovative analysis to support data-driven recommendations that improve healthcare quality and organizational efficiency.
What's New at VSC?
VSC is pleased to have been engaged by a private industry client to conduct a competitive market analysis of the current and future social determinants of health (SDoH) market. Social determinants of health have been identified as key mediators in individual and population health. Thought to influence various direct inputs to health production—from seeking and maintaining primary-care appointments to effectively managing chronic disease—SDoH may have the potential to improve healthcare quality and curtail costs. Even so, only minor progress has been made toward functionally integrating SDoH in healthcare organizations. Inequities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic may, however, accelerate adoption of SDoH to value-based payment models, healthcare-delivery plans, and population-health roadmaps.

Employee Spotlight

Each week, The Weekly Dose will introduce readers to one of our team members.

This week, VSC Administrative Services Manager, Montana Mullins, is in the “spotlight.” If you’ve ever interacted with VSC, there’s no doubt you had the pleasure of speaking with Montana! We have asked her three questions, the answers to which reveal some of her professional and personal inspiration for working in the field of health science. 

Which people and/or events influenced your decision to work in this field?

Without giving my life story, I was on a scholarship through the US Army, studying Criminal Justice. (I was going to be an MP in the Army.) During my sophomore year, I found out I was a Type1 Diabetic and could no longer fulfill the contractual obligations of my scholarship. Instead, I "married into" the military, where it's difficult for spouses to manage and maintain a long-term career. I became a Virtual Assistant because it was flexible, virtual, and I genuinely enjoy working with people. I clicked with Jess and Bill in the beginning, and it became evident that we were a perfect fit, so I transitioned from working as a VA for a couple of clients, to coming on solely with VSC. It was the best decision I could have made, as it feels like I've finally found my place, in a professional sense. I still can't believe how much I enjoy my job and the people with whom I work.

What was the answer you gave people as a child when asked what you want to be when you grow up? 

A published author in elementary school, an oncologist in middle school, and a Soldier in high school. While none of those panned out, I still enjoy creative writing.

What advice would you give yourself 3 years ago? 3 years from now? 

Three years ago: Trust the process; everything happens for a reason; bet on yourself once in a while. My life has been full of significant curveballs, but I've ended up right where I want and need to be. Three years from now: Stop doubting yourself and keep hustling! I have a lot to offer, but often let my own insecurities get in the way. I hope that future me has more wisdom and confidence. And, always take some time to be grateful and see the good.
We welcome your feedback! Tell us what you think of The Weekly Dose and feel free to send article suggestions for future editions. Contact us by e-mail at info@vscgrp.com or call us at 1-877-VIT-STAT.