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Make 'food is medicine' a key part of the White House nutrition conference

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M.Much of the public perception of food as a health intervention is outdated. So is the perception of the US government and its health care policy. Not years, but decades.

The last time the country focused on food was, top to bottom, the 1969 White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health. Among the important programs is what is today called the Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program. School breakfast and lunch programs. A national approach to developing dietary guidelines. And now the ubiquitous nutrition label.

Without a doubt, these programs have fed the needy, saved lives, and improved the overall health of Americans. But we are faced with her new reality in the 21st century. A poor diet is the leading cause of death, with high rates of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. Approximately 50% of adults in the United States have diabetes or prediabetes, 75% are overweight or obese, and over 90% do not have ideal cardiometabolic health. Of her teens in the United States, 25% are diabetic or pre-diabetic and the same percentage are overweight or obese.


Most affected are low-income Americans, those living in rural areas, and individuals from historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups.

Chronic diseases have a negative impact not only on people’s health, but also on the economy. Healthcare spending as a percentage of gross domestic product has soared from 5% in 1960 to nearly 18% in 2020.


Recognizing that access to better nutrition and healthy food can help prevent and treat serious and chronic diseases, improve health equity and save money is now a thing of the past. .

As experts in medicine, nutrition, public health and community interventions to improve food and nutrition security, I am pleased with President Biden’s recent announcement, Sept. 28. This provides a historic opportunity to promote “food is medicine” interventions, bringing food to the forefront in addressing the country’s health crisis.

In the 53 years since the last White House conference, and especially in the last decade, health care providers, clinicians, nonprofits, and academics have investigated many nutritional interventions and programs in health care. One of them is the Medically Adjusted Diet Program, an approach that one of us (DBW) has pursued for his 30+ years. This includes providing specially designed, fully prepared meals to people with severe and complex illnesses. Another food is a medical intervention, creating prescriptions that allow health care providers to issue vouchers, debit cards, or refer patients to meal services so they can get fresh fruits and vegetables.

These and other strategies represent true innovations in addressing food and nutrition insecurity. For the first time, the health care system, the largest sector of the American economy, has taken steps to ensure that citizens’ diets contain nutrient-dense foods that not only provide people with calories, but also promote health and prevent disease. are participating in the battle. , and even cure the disease.

These programs are effective. Medically adjusted diets cut hospital admissions in half, reduced emergency department visits in sick, low-income people by almost two thirds, and improved lives, even considering the cost of the programme. , save money overall. Agricultural prescriptions make it easier for a wider range of individuals and families to improve their diets. A nationwide agricultural formulary program could save $40 billion in health care costs and prevent approximately 2 million heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular diseases in the lifetime of an adult in the United States today.

Many proposals, such as modernizing Medicare and Medicaid to include medically conditioned meals and other interventions as covered benefits, and calling for more nutrition education from health care providers, emerged at the White House conference. already on the table. For example, in U.S. medical schools, primary care and other physicians serve as authoritative sources of information for patients seeking dietary and food guidance, yet they spend an alarmingly disastrous 1% of total lecture time. devoted to nutrition education.

At a minimum, the conference should support continued research in food and health programs. For example, thanks to newly awarded funding from the National Institutes of Health, Community Servings, where one of us (DBW) is CEO, and the Tufts Friedman School of Nutritional Science and Policy, where one of us (DM) is Dean. in collaboration with UMass Chan Medical School to further evaluate the impact of a medically modified diet. This study, and Medicare pilot programs such as those introduced by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts), will provide more insight into how best to deploy medically adjusted dietary programs to those in need. essential for gaining insight into

Unfortunately, access to food is currently limited to a minority of Americans through private payer demonstration projects in a few states. Therefore, most Americans who can prescribe to benefit from a medically adjusted diet cannot get them.

If nutrition is seen as a social driver of health, more needs to be done to increase access to these programs.

The United States is at a critical time in its fight against hunger, malnutrition, and diet-related illness. It’s no longer good nutrition for all Americans, it’s not just a theoretical “nice to have”.is achievable must have — Increase happiness, cure disease, improve the lives of the seriously ill, improve health equity and reduce the rising healthcare costs that are bankrupting nations.

To lead the fight for adequate coverage for health care systems to create more medically tailored diet and prescribing programs, stronger nutrition education for clinicians, and counseling by registered dietitians. should be the central asset of

The Biden administration, congressional leaders, and all stakeholders attending the White House nutrition conference must recognize and elevate these interventions as critical life-saving tools.

Dariush Mozaffarian is a Cardiologist, Professor and Dean of Policy at the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Task Force on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, an independent group created to inform the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health. David B. Waters is CEO of Community Servings, a Boston-based nonprofit organization that provides medically conditioned meals and nutrition services. Mozaffarian reports research funding from the National Institutes of Health, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, Vail His Innovative Global Research, and Kaiser His Permanente. Advises and owns shares in Acasti Pharma, Barilla, Beren Therapeutics, Brightseed, Calibrate, Danone, Day Two, Discern Dx, Elysium Health, Filtricine, HumanCo, Motif FoodWorks, January Inc., Perfect Day, Season Health, and Tiny Organics doing. At Calibrate and HumanCo.