Reposted with permission from Bob Pritchard
Farmacy’s food bank which provides healthy foods–heavy on fruits, vegetables, lean meats and low-sodium options, is one of a number of groundbreaking efforts that finally consider food a critical part of a patient’s medical care. They treat food as medicine that can have as much power to heal as drugs.
So far, the several hundred people who rely on the Fresh Food Farmacy have lowered their risk of serious diabetes complications by 40% and cut hospitalizations by 70% compared with other diabetic people in the area who don’t have access to the program. This year, on the basis of its success so far, the Fresh Food Farmacy is tripling the number of patients it supports.
More studies are revealing that people’s health is the sum of much more than the medications they take and the tests they get. Health is affected by how much you sleep and exercise, how much stress you have and what you are eating at every meal. Food is becoming a particular focus of doctors, hospitals, insurers and even employers who are frustrated by the slow progress of drug treatments in reducing food-related diseases like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and even cancer.
A growing body of research supports the idea that when people eat well, they stay healthier and are more likely to control chronic diseases and perhaps even avoid them altogether. When you prioritize food and teach people how to prepare healthy meals it can end up being more impactful than medications.
The Cleveland Clinic sponsors farmers’ markets where local growers accept food assistance vouchers from federal programs like WIC (Women, Infants, and Children Special Supplemental Nutrition Program) as well as state-led initiatives. And doctors at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco hand out recipes instead of (or along with) prescriptions for their patients, pulled from the organization’s Thrive Kitchen, which also provides low-cost monthly cooking classes for members of its health plan.
Doctors alone can’t accomplish this food transformation. Recognizing that healthier members not only live longer but also avoid expensive visits to the emergency room, insurers are starting to reward healthy eating by covering sessions with nutritionists and dietitians. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts covers tailored meals from the nonprofit food program Community Servings for its members with congestive heart failure who can’t afford the low-fat, low-sodium meals they need.
The idea of food as medicine is not only an idea whose time has come, it’s an idea that’s absolutely essential to the health care system.
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