“Nonprofit hospitals, which make up about 60 percent of American hospitals, have historically justified their tax exemptions from federal and state government by offering charitable services in communities where they operate. Community health clinics and free and discounted care for poor patients have been among their tactics. But most nonprofit hospitals have not been required to report in detail exactly what they are doing to help people in need. Measures to prevent disease have not been required. Many hospitals have aggressively collected overdue payments from low-income patients, a practice that is discordant with being deemed charities.
Food insecurity is increasing in the United States, and—not surprisingly—evidence shows that hunger should be considered as a health issue. Researchers have documented that economically vulnerable patients must sometimes choose between buying food and buying medication, and low-income individuals with diabetes have higher rates of hospital admissions for hypoglycemia at the end of the month when they are running out of food.
We were pleased to see this report from the Center for Health Law & Policy Innovation of the Harvard Law School. Food Is Medicine: Opportunities in Public and Private Health Care for Supporting Nutritional Counseling and Medically Tailored, Home-Delivered Meals discusses the significance of nutrition for patients with acute and chronic illnesses. The report also offers suggestions for how providers of medically tailored nutrition intervention services can work with public and private insurance systems. The authors note that “people with acute and chronic illnesses often have difficulty obtaining and preparing adequate food. Malnourished patients are twice as likely to be readmitted to a hospital within 15 days of discharge and have a much higher risk of death than patients who are well-nourished.”
As part of Community Health Improvement Week in New Haven, the Connecticut Mental Health Center (CMHC) is hosting Hunger As a Health Issue: Community Food Needs Assessment and Solutions. This special “lunch and learn” event is co-hosted by four community-based organizations committed to promoting sustainable local food systems and addressing food insecurity. Fresh Advantage founder Marydale DeBor coordinated this event as part of her ongoing advisory role for CMHC’s “Food Transformation” initiative. CMHC, Connecticut’s leading mental health agency for the Greater New Haven area, is managed by the Yale School of Medicine, where Marydale is a lecturer in the Department of Psychiatry.
Feeding America reports that 30 percent of seniors who rely on local food pantries say they sometimes must choose between paying for food and paying for medical care. As the infographic shows, older Americans without enough food to eat are at higher risk of developing serious health issues, including heart disease.
Marydale DeBor is a featured expert in “Treating Hunger As a Health Issue,” a US News & World Report article that examines the role of hospitals in helping patients manage their health outcomes by alleviating food insecurity. Marydale works with hospitals to develop community benefit programs that promote healthy eating, reduce food insecurity, and improve population health. Provisions in the Affordable Care Act now offer financial incentives to encourage hospitals to focus on preventive care and decrease readmission rates. Although this is new and challenging territory for most hospitals, using proven hospital-based programs such as Plow to Plate, which Marydale helped design and build, can help hospitals achieve their health care objectives while maintaining their non-profit status.
Poverty can literally make people sick. As money and food run out at the end of the month, hospitalization for hypoglycemia increases for low-income people, as Dr. Hilary Seligman and her colleagues found in this study reported on in The Atlantic.
Please contact us for information about how Fresh Advantage helps hospitals use their community benefit programs to address food insecurity and its serious health consequences. These programs, which must be strengthened in response to provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, offer a proven means of decreasing food insecurity
FA Director Marydale DeBor, a nationally recognized community benefit expert, is collaborating with leading anti-hunger organizations and physicians across the nation, including Dr. Seligman, in the fight against malnutrition-related disease.
Food Pathfinder and FA founder/director Marydale DeBor was a VP at New Milford Hospital in Connecticut when she was interviewed by Katherine Gustafson for Change Comes to Dinner. Marydale was instrumental in creating and developing Plow to Plate, a nationally recognized community- and hospital-based network of programs dedicated to combating obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. “Two years ago, DeBor moved to New Haven to start the consulting firm Fresh Advantage. She now does work similar to what she did in New Milford . . .” read the book review.
In this National Kale Day interview, Marydale discusses two key strategies for transforming institutional food: first, the crucial importance of having the institution’s top leadership understand and promote the changes; and second, moving away from “food court” eating (too many choices, too many calories) to a simplified plant-based menu that uses the tastiest, most nutritious ingredients. As Marydale explains, food costs are controlled when menus feature fewer options and less meat.
VIDEO & PODCAST LIBRARY
Recovery is Cooking
From Connecticut Mental Health Center
Plow to Plate
Before Fresh Advantage, Marydale co-founded Plow to Plate. Hear about their successes on All Things Connecticut
Prescribing Food, Part 1: Making Hospitals Healthier
From Heritage Radio Network
Women Addressing Food In Healthcare
From the Yale Sustainable Food Project Podcast