Universal social needs assessment in gynecologic oncology: An important step toward more informed and targeted care in the public safety net

Natsai C. Nyakudarika, Christine H. Holschneider, Abdulrahman K. Sinno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Social needs are actionable mediators of social determinants of health. Along with distress, they affect quality of life and survival in patients with cancer. The objectives of this study were to identify the most common social needs and distress in a largely immigrant gynecologic oncology patient population at a public safety-net hospital and to evaluate for specific needs associated with distress and poor outcomes. Methods: This was a prospective, survey-based cohort study of patients who participated in a performance-improvement initiative offering social needs assessment and distress screening. Patients provided sociodemographic information and completed validated surveys adapted from the Health Leads Social Needs Screening Toolkit, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Distress Thermometer, and the Emotion Thermometers Tool. Associations between social needs, distress, and treatment outcomes were analyzed. Results: In total, 135 women were included. Of these, 65.2% had at least 1 unmet social need, and 36.3% screened positive for distress. Help reading hospital materials (30.4%) was the most frequently reported need. Social isolation (odds ratio [OR], 3.65; 95% CI, 1.35-9.9; P =.01) and lack of safety at home (OR, 4.90; 95% CI, 2.23-10.62; P =.0001) were associated with distress. Perceived lack of finances for medical care (OR, 5.69; 95% CI, 1.12-28.9; P =.036) and lack of transportation (OR, 20.5; 95% CI, 2.69-156.7; P =.004) were associated with nonadherence-related treatment interruption, whereas positive distress scores were associated with interruption because of comorbidities or treatment-related toxicities (OR, 20.5; 95% CI, 1.5-268.6; P =.02). Conclusions: Systematically identifying social needs and developing interventions aimed at mitigating them may lead to more actionable health care disparities research and affect treatment outcomes. Lay Summary: Social needs are individual-level social conditions that drive health disparities. In this survey-based study, the objective was to identify common social needs and how these relate to distress and poor health outcomes in a largely immigrant and underserved gynecologic oncology patient population. The authors found that greater than one-third of patients screened positive for distress, nearly two-thirds had at least 1 unmet social need, and these factors were associated with emergency room visits, hospital admissions, and treatment interruptions. These findings suggest that screening for universal social needs allows providers to identify unrecognized needs and implement interventions to mitigate distress and improve health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3809-3816
Number of pages8
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 15 2021


  • gynecologic cancer
  • health care disparities
  • safety-net providers
  • social needs assessment
  • vulnerable populations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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