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Research projects aim to quantify food as medicine for chronic conditions

News
Article

American Heart Association announces new grants for Health Care by Food initiative.

healthy heart food: © marilyn barbone - stock.adobe.com

© marilyn barbone - stock.adobe.com

The American Heart Association (AHA) is kicking off another step in its campaign to help people get healthy through a good diet.

AHA and retail partners announced $7.8 million for the first 19 research projects to support the Health Care by Food initiative. The research will examine the effectiveness of providing food as part of patient care to treat, manage and prevent chronic health conditions.

“With the involvement of stakeholders across the public health ecosystem, we aim to mobilize $250 million toward building a future in which people and communities nationwide have equitable access to healthy food to treat and prevent chronic health conditions,” AHA CEO Nancy Brown said in a news release. “Our coordinated research strategy will identify the most effective ways for food to address diet-related conditions, with the goal of making food is medicine interventions a regular and reimbursable component of health care.”

AHA cited The Rockefeller Foundation as an anchor supporter. Kroger is an inaugural collaborator and supporters include Instacart, Kaiser Permanente and the Walmart Foundation. The initiative was announced in September 2022 at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health.

“When people cannot afford or access nutritious foods, they are at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other chronic diseases that contribute to higher health care costs,” Rockefeller Foundaiton President Rajiv J. Shah, MD, said in the news release. “These research trials are an essential step in our efforts to ensure everyone’s health insurance covers effective food is medicine approaches—and can help them have the opportunity to live healthier, better lives.”

American health care spending has reached $4.3 trillion a year, with 90% of that paying for medical care for chronic health conditions. Many of those are diet-related, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity.

The new studies will focus on issues including:

  • Food resource coaching for patients of a safety-net clinic
  • Delivering food is medicine interventions in underserved communities
  • Effects of a produce delivery program on patients with heart failure
  • Implementing food prescription programs in older adults

Last year, AHA created a research roadmap in its Presidential Advisory on Food Is Medicine. There are research gaps in current studies of food is medicine interventions due to factors such as small sample sizes, nonrandomized comparisons, and broad differences in data collection and measurements.

A coordinated research approach will examine the cost-effectiveness of nutrition-based interventions to prevent and treat disease. The research projects were chosen because of creative ideas, commitment to rigorous evaluations, and service to people in need. They could lead to new or improved programs for millions of people living with chronic conditions, or at risk for them.

“Research studies increasingly show that healthy food is critical to the effective treatment and prevention of chronic health conditions,” National Academy of Medicine President Victor J. Dzau said in the news release. “This initiative is vital to ensure we discover real-world evidence of the most impactful ways to incorporate healthy food into health care and benefit communities that face the biggest challenges accessing the food they need to get and stay healthy.”

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