The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t the only health crisis people worldwide are facing. Many are battling a widespread outbreak of diet-related chronic disease. Right now, one in every five deaths in the world can be attributed to poor diet. That’s more than all other risk factors, tobacco included, according to research in the British Medical Journal.
However, that has brought a new and innovative way of fighting the effects of chronic diseases related to malnutrition: food as a source of medicine to prevent, manage, and treat various illnesses.
These types of interventions have been recently piloted in medical facilities in the form of medically-tailored meals. Other programs include medically-tailored groceries and produce prescription programs, all of which provide enhanced access to nutrition-focused foods and meals in an effort to curb various diseases.
What Are Medically-Tailored Meals and Who Benefits?
Designed to provide optimal nutrition, medically-tailored meal programs are associated with fewer hospital and skilled nursing admissions and reduced medical spending. Through nutrition consultations, meals are individually designed to a specific patient’s needs and goals.
Patients battling various diseases, including the below, might benefit from medically- tailored meals:
- Congestive Heart Failure/Hypertension
- Chronic Renal Failure
- HIV, Wound Healing, Cancer, and Surgical Recovery
What’s more, patients experienced a 16% reduction in healthcare costs, with a monthly savings of $3,838 compared to $4,591.
Clinicians Need Better Education on Food Is Medicine
The initial research is promising. According to a JAMA study, patients who opt for food is medicine interventions might see better disease management and fewer admissions to the hospital. Other benefits include improved diet quality, nutrient intake, and a reduction in food insecurity.
It’s worth noting that with proper education and training on the appropriateness and use of “food is medicine” interventions, long-term benefits would be felt throughout the healthcare system. With that, sustained funding streams would need to be identified to ensure equal access amongst populations.
Many Medicare Advantage health plans provide medically-tailored meals to their members, so contact your plan to see if you, or your loved one, are eligible. To view GA Foods' medically-tailored meals menus, please click below.