Food interventions are an effective way to combat chronic illness, not only through ameliorative care for those who currently suffer from diet-related illness but also as a preventive measure for those who are at risk. Providing medically-tailored food, incentivizing the purchase of healthy foods, and providing focused nutrition education to people at high risk of developing the chronic disease are all cost-effective ways to prevent chronic illness or mitigate its impact upon diagnosis. Improved health outcomes for patients/insurance beneficiaries will translate to decreased health costs for both public and private insurers. Public and private insurers, hospitals, and networks of care providers can act now to implement the recommendations outlined in Part IV of this paper by transforming internal practices or advocating for legislative change.
They can also engage in the Next Steps described in Part V to continue to build the evidence base for the different types of interventions that might work best for their particular group of beneficiaries or patients. The nonprofit and other organizations profiled in this paper have a long history of utilizing food and nutrition services to meet the Triple Aim of improving patient experience and population health while reducing cost. Their work demonstrates that the provision of these interventions is effective at helping people living with or at risk for chronic diet-related disease stay healthy and/or avoid complications from an illness.
These organizations are an excellent resource for payers and providers seeking to introduce or scale up the provision of these services for broader populations of beneficiaries and patients. Both payers and providers stand to benefit from adopting and helping to evaluate the efficacy of food and nutrition services, and both should play leading roles in advancing the concept that food is both medicine and prevention at the national level. Integrating food and nutrition interventions into healthcare delivery for high-risk or chronically ill beneficiaries will reduce costs for public and private payers and providers and, more importantly, will help reduce the overall burden of chronic diet-related disease in the United States.