Physicians News Network: Health Trust in SC County Joins California “Food Is Medicine” Pilot Program

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Physicians News Network | May 21, 2018

The​ ​Health Trust ​in Santa Clara County and five other nonprofit organizations throughout California are participating in a new “Food Is Medicine” state pilot, a medically tailored meal service with the goal of reducing overall medical costs caused by patients not getting the necessary nutrition.

Project Angel Food launched the three-year, $6 million pilot program to prove medically tailored meals can reduce healthcare costs for Medi-Cal recipients with congestive heart failure (CHF) .

It is estimated that 1 in 8 Americans (42 million) are insecure of the foods they eat and do not eat enough nutrients to sustain a healthy and active lifestyle. Meanwhile, the rate of chronic disease caused by poor nutrition, such as hypertension, coronary heart disease, hepatitis, stroke, cancer, asthma, diabetes and arthritis, is on the rise.

“The purpose of this groundbreaking pilot is to prove our medically tailored meals and medical nutrition intervention can reduce hospital admission rates and healthcare costs within a 12-week period,” according to the announcement. Participants in the pilot will receive 100% daily nutrition, which includes breakfast and two entrees, for three months. They will also be provided with intensive medical nutrition therapy including two in-home visits by a registered dietitian and two follow-up telephone calls.

 This is the first time any state has funded a pilot of this kind. Richard Ayoub, executive director of Project Angel Food, said in a statement: “This new statewide program will usher in a new era for Project Angel Food. At the end of the program, there will be a published finding definitively proving our nutritious meals reduce healthcare costs.”

Published research into a similar project in Philadelphia that delivers three meals and one snack per day every week to low-income people who are in danger of malnutrition during a serious illness showed the meals had an impact on patient quality of life — and also major reductions in hospital costs, catching the attention of politicians in California, according to the Huffington Post. With high rates of food insecurity, chronic illness and Medicaid enrollment, California was looking for a way to bring down the overall costs of Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program, with efforts that have a proven return on investment.

With a significant number of Californians living well below the federal poverty level, those undergoing treatment for breast cancer are often left to choose between their next meal or keeping up with their quickly-accumulating medical bills. They may also forgo healthier meals, opting instead for cheaper canned foods that provide little in the form of nutrition.

“We believe food is medicine and that this food will keep people out of the hospital, thus saving Medi-Cal hundred of thousands, if not millions, of dollars,” said Ayoub.

Read the original Physicians News Network article here.