Advancing Health Through Food Security

The Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, convened a discussion forum on U.S Food Insecurity and Healthcare Costs that examined the policy and economic implications of the short and long term impacts of food insecurity on healthcare costs.   Their recently released report, Advancing Health Through Food Security: A Multi-Sector Approach to Address the Disease Burden and Costs of U.S. Food Insecurity on our Health System, finds that “two critical points must be recognized: first, that food insecurity is rooted in multiple systems (food, employment, economic, social insurance, health, culture, etc.) which should be addressed in parallel; and second, that food insecurity is not only an issue of ‘the poor.’”

The report highlights the intersection between food insecurity, healthcare costs, poverty and health outcomes, and concludes that public and private sectors have an opportunity to collaborate to address these multi-dimensional issues.  Research has clearly shown that hunger is a health issue that has negative effects on health throughout the lifespan.  Food insecurity among children is associated with birth defects, low birth weight, anxiety, and learning difficulties; it is a risk factor for poor nutrition, many diet-related diseases, and poor health in the short-term and long-term.  In addition, for seniors, those who are food insecure have a higher risk of heart attack, asthma, heart failure, and depression.  Available data provides strong evidence that food insecurity is associated with significant healthcare costs. Bread for the World Institute estimates the health-related costs of hunger and food insecurity at approximately $160 billion.

The Aspen Institute finds that effectively tackling food insecurity in the U.S. and its health and healthcare cost implications will require strong public policies, food industry innovations, healthcare engagement, and nonprofit and philanthropic leadership. Recommendations were made in five categories:  1) public policy approaches, 2) food industry leadership, 3) engagement by healthcare organizations, 4) support from nonprofits and foundations, and 5) food security research.

This timely report lends support to the efforts of New York State’s Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment Program (DSRIP) which is designed to restructure the health care delivery system with a goal of reducing avoidable hospital use by 25% over 5 years.  Healthcare organizations and hospital systems will be working towards a community health approach.  Providers and hospital systems are encouraged to work with Community Based Organizations (CBO) to address patients’ social determinants of health.

The Health & Welfare Council of Long Island is a CBO partner with the Suffolk Care Collaborative Preforming Provider Systems (PPS) and the Nassau/Eastern Queens PPS.   HWCLI is engaged in collaborating with local partners to address food insecurity through a variety of innovative outreach and referral methods which align with DSRIP goals and support communities.

For more information about HWCLI’s food programs please contact us at (516)505-4430.

Read the Aspen Institutes full report HERE