Screening and social prescribing in healthcare and social services to address housing issues among children and families: a systematic review

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BMJ open


OBJECTIVES: Housing is a social determinant of health that impacts the health and well-being of children and families. Screening and referral to address social determinants of health in clinical and social service settings has been proposed to support families with housing problems. This study aims to identify housing screening questions asked of families in healthcare and social services, determine validated screening tools and extract information about recommendations for action after screening for housing issues. METHODS: The electronic databases MEDLINE, PsycINFO, EMBASE, Ovid Emcare, Scopus and CINAHL were searched from 2009 to 2021. Inclusion criteria were peer-reviewed literature that included questions about housing being asked of children or young people aged 0-18 years and their families accessing any healthcare or social service. We extracted data on the housing questions asked, source of housing questions, validity and descriptions of actions to address housing issues. RESULTS: Forty-nine peer-reviewed papers met the inclusion criteria. The housing questions in social screening tools vary widely. There are no standard housing-related questions that clinical and social service providers ask families. Fourteen screening tools were validated. An action was embedded as part of social screening activities in 27 of 42 studies. Actions for identified housing problems included provision of a community-based or clinic-based resource guide, and social prescribing included referral to a social worker, care coordinator or care navigation service, community health worker, social service agency, referral to a housing and child welfare demonstration project or provided intensive case management and wraparound services. CONCLUSION: This review provides a catalogue of housing questions that can be asked of families in the clinical and/or social service setting, and potential subsequent actions.

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