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Revolutionizing Healthcare with Food Is Medicine: Saving Billions

Healthcare with Food Is Medicine

Food is Medicine (FIM)

Incorporating targeted food and nutrition strategies into national healthcare systems promises to enhance health, reduce the healthcare burden, and save billions, according to experts delving into the Food is Medicine (FIM) movement. The Food is Medicine Institute at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, with support from The Rockefeller Foundation, has released a report titled This case study, titled “The True Cost of Food: Food Is Medicine,” attempts to quantify the potential health and economic gains that could result from FIM programs.

These initiatives involve integrating food-based nutrition interventions into healthcare to prevent or treat chronic diet-related diseases, while also addressing food insecurity and promoting health equity.

Unlocking the Potential of Food as Medicine

The report presents compelling data: If Medically Tailored Meals (MTMs) were nationally implemented in Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance for patients with diet-related conditions and limited daily living abilities, it could prevent about 1.6 million hospitalizations, resulting in a net savings of approximately $13.6 billion in healthcare costs in the first year after factoring in implementation expenses.

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Furthermore, the report suggests that nationwide adoption of produce prescription programs for patients with diabetes and food insecurity could prevent 292,000 cardiovascular events and contribute 260,000 quality-adjusted life years, all while being highly cost-effective from a health perspective (with an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of $18,100/quality-adjusted life years) and cost-saving from a societal perspective (with a net savings of $-0.05 billion).

Transforming Healthcare, One Meal at a Time

The data that was just released further illustrates how FIM treatments like medically tailored meals and produce prescriptions, along with nutrition education for doctors and insurance coverage of nutrition counseling that is delivered by a qualified dietitian, can help reduce the prevalence of obesity could substantially impact the 10,000 weekly deaths in the United States and the staggering $1.1 trillion in annual healthcare spending and lost productivity attributable to poor diets.

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Dariush Mozaffarian, senior author of the report, cardiologist, and Director of the Food is Medicine Institute, emphasizes the potential of FIM to transform healthcare:

“The true costs of our food system – its environmental impact, working conditions in agriculture, and impacts on health, healthcare spending, and health equity – are too often excluded from the price tag. This report can help governments, companies, and consumers better assess the value of Food is Medicine interventions, considering not only the cost of food but also the return on investment in improved health outcomes.”

A Call to Action

This report coincides with the historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health and the National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in September 2022, both of which highlighted the significance of harnessing the potential of FIM.

The report outlines potential national policy solutions, including infrastructure development, generating opportunities and funding, and strengthening United States Department of Agriculture nutrition programs.

Devon Klatell, Vice President of the Food Initiative at The Rockefeller Foundation, emphasizes the need to consider the broader costs of our food system:

“The true costs of our food system – its environmental impact, working conditions of those who produce our food, and its impacts on health, healthcare spending, and health equity – are too often left out of the equation”

This research can assist governments, companies, and consumers in properly evaluating the value of Food Is Medicine programs by taking into consideration not only the price paid for food but also the return on investment in improved health outcomes that they can bring.

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The report’s findings are rooted in two separate studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. The first study evaluates the health and economic aspects of expanding MTMs nationally, while the second study examines the health and economic implications of implementing prescription programs for adults with diabetes and food insecurity across the United States.