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Treat or Eat: Food insecurity, cost-related medication underuse and unmet needs

Treat or Eat: Food insecurity, cost-related medication underuse and unmet needs. American Journal of Medicine, published online 21 January 2014.

Background: ‘Adults with chronic disease are often unable to meet medication and/or food needs, but no study has examined the relationship between cost-related medication underuse and food insecurity in a nationally representative sample. We examined which groups most commonly face unmet food and medication needs.

Methods:  Cross-sectional analysis of data from chronically ill participants (self report of arthritis, diabetes mellitus, cancer, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, stroke, hypertension, coronary heart disease, or presence of a “psychiatric problem”), age ≥20 years, of the 2011 National Health Interview Survey. We fit logistic regression models to identify factors associated with food insecurity, cost-related medication underuse, or both.

Results: 9,696 adult NHIS participants reported chronic illness; 23.4% reported cost-related medication underuse; 18.8% reported food insecurity; and 11% reported both. Adults who reported food insecurity were significantly more likely to report cost-related medication underuse (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 4.03). Participants with both cost-related medication underuse and food insecurity were more likely to be Hispanic (aOR 1.58) non-Hispanic Black (aOR 1.58), and have more chronic conditions (aOR per additional chronic condition 1.56) than patients reporting neither. They were also less likely to have Public, non-Medicare insurance (aOR 0.70) and report to WIC participation (aOR 0.39).

Conclusions:  Approximately 1 in 3 chronically-ill NHIS participants are unable to afford food, medications, or both. WIC and public health insurance participation are associated with less food insecurity and cost-related medication underuse.”

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