Why food insecurity needs greater attention from health systems, payers

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Food insecurity is a serious issue that affects many Americans and is also linked to poor health outcomes. A new McKinsey report, published Nov. 24, details why and how payers and health systems should turn their attention to combating the issue.

According to Feeding America, 45 million Americans may have faced food insecurity in 2020.  Food insecurity also affects overall health and nutrition, as food-insecure people are more than twice as likely to report poor physical and mental health, according to previous McKinsey research. They are also twice as likely to report having an inpatient hospital stay. Poor nutrition is also a serious health risk factor and is linked to increased rates of hypertension, diabetes and obesity. 

McKinsey outlined several policies that can be implemented to help alleviate the issue. Home deliveries help ease the burden on those with chronic health issues or those recovering from surgery who find it hard to prepare food. Medically tailored food is designed for patients with certain health conditions, and general food services offer discounts at local food stores, easing the financial pressure of purchasing adequate amounts of food. 

Strategies to combat food insecurity have shown promise so far. Access to medically tailored meal programs was shown to lead to fewer emergency-room visits and admissions to hospitals and skilled nursing facilities for patients with specific nutritional needs. Another study showed that programs designed to help patients meet their nutritional needs saved up to $200 a month per patient in healthcare spending. 

While some payers realize this, McKinsey suggests that more can be done to improve offerings and coverage, including personalization and strengthened partnerships. Read the full report here

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