Healthy food prescriptions could save billions in healthcare costs
[MSN, 3/19/19] Every day, doctors write prescriptions for medications that will treat various ailments in their patients. Those prescriptions, though, come once the patient is already sick. In an effort to stop disease before it starts, some researchers are pushing for policies and programs that would let doctors prescribe healthy foods and insurers to cover them—actively helping patients shift to a health-promoting diet.
Could Save Billions of $’s!
These types of programs work: Subsidizing fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods under Medicare and Medicaid could prevent millions of cases, as well as deaths from cardiovascular disease, according to a new model. It would prevent hundreds of thousands of diabetes cases as well, and save billions of dollars in health care costs.
“The power of food as medicine is increasingly clear,” says study author Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. And the idea of treating food as a key element of health care is catching on across the health care industry, says Rita Nguyen, Medical Director of Healthy Food Initiatives at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. “People are recognizing the common sense of it all,” she says. “We spend so much on health care, and our outcomes are abysmal. We don’t invest in prevention.”
Food as Medicine
Food as medicine doesn’t mean that individual foods can be used to treat individual conditions or diseases, but that a healthy diet can help manage disease, Nguyen notes—the leading risk factor for cardiovascular disease, for example, is poor diet. “With food insecurity, treating someone by giving them food can improve health. For those who are food secure, anyone given a good diet will have improved health management,” she says.
The new model analyzed the effects of two policy scenarios: In the first, 30 percent of the costs of fruits and vegetables would be covered under Medicare and Medicaid; in the second, 30 percent of fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods like whole grains and seafood would be covered. The model incorporated things like socioeconomic demographics and health risk factors of people enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid, data on the way price decreases change healthy food purchasing behaviors, and subsidy costs……..
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Jaelin Stickels, CNM, WHNP
Owner, SHEis & Holistic Heritage, Spring, TX
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