Food Lifeline’s Hunger in America 2014 survey revealed that nearly half of Western Washington’s food bank client households have someone with diabetes or high blood pressure. It should come as no surprise that not having access to food impacts an individual’s health. Hunger is associated with a higher risk of chronic disease including diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. All of these diseases can be prevented or mitigated by consuming a healthy diet, however, many low-income individuals lack regular access to healthy foods. Sadly, these are the same people who struggle to obtain and pay for health care.
But there is good news. With the passing of the Affordable Care Act, the nation’s health care landscape is changing rapidly. Insurers and health care providers now have the incentive to improve patient care and to lower health care costs. Health care organizations are increasingly becoming more interested in partnering with entities outside of the traditional medical field, such as food banks, in order to maximize care while minimizing costs. Food banks can play a vital role in ensuring that their clients benefit from these changes by forming important partnerships with providers in their community.
What are some ways that partnering with community health care providers will benefit food bank clients?
- Food banks can help health care providers understand that issues such as poor housing and food instability are key predictors of health care needs and costs.
- Physicians can refer their patients to local food banks that provide healthy food or host farmer’s markets in their lobby or parking lot.
- Food banks can educate health care staff about the issues surrounding food insecurity and provide them with the tools to screen and refer clients.
- Food banks can provide health-related services, such as distributing food packages that contain disease preventative foods, providing on-site health screenings, ensuring clients are signed up for health insurance, and offering nutrition and health education.
Through strong partnerships, food banks can encourage clients to visit their local health care provider knowing that the best and most affordable care will be provided. Food banks must serve as a voice for their clients and with changes in the health care industry they now have a chance to become crucial partners in health promotion. For more information, read the full report from Feeding America.