The association between housing and food insecurity among medically underserved cancer patients

Support Care Cancer. 2021 Jun 24. doi: 10.1007/s00520-021-06254-1. Online ahead of print.


PURPOSE: To assess the prevalence of socioeconomic needs and associations between housing characteristics and food insecurity among low-income cancer patients, among whom housing and food insecurity are particularly prevalent.

METHODS: Low-income cancer patients in active treatment (N = 1618) were enrolled in a comprehensive patient navigation program. Food insecurity was assessed using the 18-item US Department of Agriculture US Household Food Security Survey Module. Participants self-reported their need for assistance with housing issues/type of assistance needed, perception of overcrowding, satisfaction with living situation, and household density via a cross-sectional survey. Descriptive analyses, cross-tabulations and tests of proportions, and binary logistic regression were used in data analyses.

RESULTS: Seventy percent of patients were food insecure. Housing characteristics associated with food insecurity were homelessness or living in sheltered/supportive housing (83.3% food insecure), renting (71.9%), and homeownership (58.1%; p < .001); living situation satisfaction (not satisfied, 79.4%; somewhat satisfied, 25.6%; very satisfied, 66%; p < .001); need of housing assistance (79.2%; p < .001), and feeling crowded in their living unit (77.6%; p < .05). Associations of living unit type with food insecurity were significant in the binary logistic regression model (renters 1.68 OR, homeless/sheltered housing 2.80 OR vs homeowners).

CONCLUSION: The vulnerability to food insecurity of patients in this low-income sample was underlined by the high rates found, and clear associations with housing characteristics of homelessness, housing assistance needs, and feeling overcrowded were identified. These results could help shape priorities around screening patients for nutrition and housing needs and developing interventions to address them.

PMID:34169329 | DOI:10.1007/s00520-021-06254-1