Hunger Ingenuity

A Conversation at Cambia Grove: optimizing how health is paid for

By May 17, 2021No Comments

“It would be amazing to get healthcare and healthy food at the same place. I would be willing to volunteer! It would be very beneficial to me and all low-income people and it would make sense because my doctor is always talking to me about eating healthy foods”—Food Lifeline shopper

“Food as medicine approaches are gaining real traction…If pilot studies are implemented and work, there’s a very real chance you could in the near future go to the doctor, a doctor could write a prescription for food, and an insurance company will pay for part.” Dariush Mozaffarian, Dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.

Food Lifeline has long known that improving food security improves health outcomes and holds great potential for reducing the cost of medical care for many of our neighbors in western Washington. Food insecurity, or uncertain access to food because of limited financial resources, is associated with higher healthcare costs. Moreover, the impacts of COVID-19 have hit hardest in groups already experiencing health disparities and food insecurity, particularly in our region’s BIPOC communities. These groups have experienced the most significant economic impact resulting in loss of insurance, decreased food security, increased stress and anxiety, and numerous other consequences that will negatively impact health for years to come, further widening the gap in health disparities. For all these reasons, Food Lifeline is more committed than ever to our work at the intersection of hunger and health.

The fragmented nature of our health care system does not lend itself to effectively addressing food insecurity and other health disparities. These many barriers include competing hospital systems, a mix of public and private insurance plans, and electronic medical record platforms that do not communicate with one another. Additionally, current incentive structures and funding mechanisms are not well-aligned to encourage proactive and long-term support for those most impacted by food insecurity and other health disparities.

Medical professionals, insurance company representatives, and food banking professionals gather at Cambia Grove for a summit on healthcare and hunger.

Multiple efforts, often led by community-based organizations, are underway to connect nutritious food with those most likely to experience food insecurity. These efforts are challenging the long-standing effects of inequity by uniting partners from across the spectrum of health care and working to address racial equity commitments and ultimately achieve measurable health outcomes.

Cambia Grove is a health care innovation hub focused on bridging the gap between innovators of all types and the traditional health care sectors and is a long-time supporter of Food Lifeline’s Healthcare Initiative. On June 8-9, Cambia Grove’s Optimizing Incentive’s Summit will gather experts from across the spectrum of health care to feature candid discussion on the past, present, and future of incentives. One key focus will be on impactful innovation that is made possible when incentives are aligned, including improving patient outcomes and addressing social determinants of health. Joining this conversation will help further the work being led by community-based organizations, like Food Lifeline, to find sustainable solutions to end food insecurity.