White House conference stresses that ‘food and medicine go hand in hand’

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License picture” alt=”President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington on Wednesday. Photo by Youri Gripas/UPI | License picture“/>

President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington on Wednesday. Photo by Youri Gripas/UPI | License picture

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 (UPI) — Science has “connected the dots” between healthy eating and disease prevention and treatment, and it’s high time to realize that a person’s chronic illness cannot be managed if they are hungry – and to Do more.

That’s the gist of what several health experts said at the historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health held Wednesday in Washington.

At the conference, the focus was on the “second pillar” of the Biden administration’s national strategy to end hunger in the United States by 2030: prioritizing the role of nutrition and food security in a person’s overall health.

This is the first White House conference to address the problem of food insecurity in more than 50 years, aimed at coordinating a national response to eliminate the root causes of a fundamental problem affecting the health of millions of people in this country.

Ahead of the conference, the White House on Tuesday announced a five-pronged national strategy that includes the integration of nutrition and health.

At the federal level, this would be done by taking steps such as working with Congress to pilot medically-appropriate meal coverage in Medicare; and expanding access for Medicaid and Medicare enrollees to nutrition and obesity counseling.

Featured partnerships

Speakers also described concrete actions being taken through public-private partnerships to eradicate hunger, improve healthy diets and increase physical activity – and thereby reduce the heavy toll of diet-related diseases such as than diabetes, hypertension and obesity in the United States.

“Increasing access to affordable and nutritious food is a challenge we are deeply committed to…and we believe in starting with science,” said Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, Chairman of the Rockefeller Foundation, who has moderated a conference panel Wednesday on “food is medicine.”

Shah noted that the Rockefeller Foundation was part of the first White House conference on hunger in 1969. This led to crucial changes, including a significant expansion of the national school lunch program and the food stamp program, known today as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAPSHOT.

Science has “connected the dots” between diet and disease prevention and treatment, Shah said, “and as a result, we’ve seen data that tells us, including from Tufts University, that a 30% subsidy for fruit and vegetable purchases through Medicare and Medicaid would avert nearly 2 million cardiovascular disease events and more than 300,000 premature deaths from cardiovascular disease alone.”

Now is the time to leverage this knowledge and “emerging understanding” to design and scale “food is medicine” programs, Shah said. “That’s what it’s about.”

Shah said that starting in 2023, the Rockefeller Foundation and the American Heart Association, along with their first partner Kroger, plan to raise $250 million to build a national “food is medicine” research initiative.

Currently, the collaboration is in discussion with payers and health systems, including Kaiser Permanente, Apple and the Veterans Health Administration, he said.

Everyone is required

While this is a great start, “unlocking the power of food as medicine will take all of us,” Shah added.

One panelist, Dr Sachin Jain, president and CEO of SCAN Health Plan, said the plan has long underscored the need to “think beyond medical care” in order to keep older people healthy and independent. .

SCAN, founded in 1977, is a California-based nonprofit Medicare Advantage plan that aims to help frail older adults remain independent and live in the community.

“Last year we delivered over 500,000 meals to our service areas, recognizing that you can’t really treat someone’s chronic illnesses… if they’re hungry,” Jain said.

“You can give insulin or metformin to that many patients, but if they eat the wrong things or don’t have access to meals, they’ll end up in the hospital.”

Jain said the United States needs to rethink its health care spending and stop focusing on paying for visits and hospitalizations, and instead “start paying for the things that actually keep people healthy — and we think meals are a really, really important part of that.”

Go hand in hand

Gesturing to the audience, Jain said it was “a room full of people who recognize that food and medicine go hand in hand”.

Dr. Kofi Essel, a community pediatrician at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, said families who bring children into the system are universally screened to determine if they are at risk of food insecurity.

Typically, these families worry about where their next meal will come from, and there is a decrease in food quality as they limit purchases to items they know will last and their family will eat, a he declared.

According to Essel, parents facing food insecurity “protect” their children by eating less so their children can eat more. When children, too, decrease their food intake, “we know it’s more about extreme food insecurity,” he said.

Karen Pearl, CEO of God’s Love We Deliver, was also on the panel.

Volunteers at the non-profit organization prepare and deliver medically appropriate meals to the homes of residents of the New York metropolitan area who are living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other serious illnesses and who are too ill to shop or cook for themselves.

Serves the HIV community

Pearl said the program, which began its work in the HIV community, realized early on that meaningful treatment began by looking at the whole person and seeing the need to invest in the food and nutrition.

“And so from day one, we weren’t just a meal program, but we were a nutrition program that ensured that the people who received our meals were getting the right meals for their particular medical situation,” Pearl said.

In a subsequent conference panel, Dr. Shereef Einahal, Undersecretary of Health for the Department of Veterans Affairs, said it was difficult to bridge the gap between nutrition and health through partnerships.

He spoke about military veterans and food insecurity, first citing broadly “obvious gaps” in how health care providers across the United States are trained on nutrition.

According to Einahal, VA clinics examine the social determinants of health, including food insecurity, and attempt to connect veterans to meals and transportation.

A new rideshare program in New England will connect 200,000 veterans with food deliveries over the next year and provide 255,000 rides to veterans who need mental health services, he said.

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