Washington, DC – The Bipartisan Policy Center today released comprehensive recommendations that address the nation’s poor diet quality and the subsequent impact on public health in the United States through the “food is medicine” (FIM) concept. The report, Healthy Eating Rx: Improving Nutrition Through Health Care, underscores the urgent need for comprehensive federal policy reform to tackle the escalating crisis of diet-related health conditions that cost billions and lead to preventable illnesses and fatalities.
Earlier this year, BPC convened a Food is Medicine Working Group under the direction of four co-chairs: former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, former Agriculture Secretaries Dan Glickman and Ann Veneman, and former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala. The working group includes representatives from health systems, hospitals, insurers, patient advocacy organizations, health care providers, and food retailers.
“As a former secretary of Agriculture,” said Glickman, “I understand the importance of increasing the availability and affordability of healthy foods, especially with the rise in preventable diet-related diseases.” Frist added: “We need to address the lack of adequate nutrition education in medical and health care training to ensure that health care professionals can effectively guide patients toward healthier dietary choices.”
The report makes recommendations to improve nutrition education and to scale evidence based FIM interventions, with recommendations falling into two main categories:
- Training and Education: Recommendations address the need to educate health care professionals on nutrition science, screening for nutrition security, diet quality, referrals to dietician services, and FIM interventions. The report also calls for the establishment of nutrition-specific competencies in medical programs and continuing education requirements.
- Engaging Health Care Professionals: Recommendations focus on expanding data collection efforts for the benefits of medically tailored meals, guiding the inclusion of FIM interventions in the Medical Loss Ratio, and addressing HIPAA compliance for community-based organizations when sharing patient health data. The report also proposes expanding Medicare coverage for medical nutrition therapy and including registered dieticians among providers eligible to bill Medicare for delivering intensive behavioral therapy.
“Proper physician advice and guidance can empower patients to change their eating habits and improve their health,” commented Veneman. “’Food is medicine underscores the crucial role that nutrition plays in health care,” said Shalala. “It provides patients with interventions that get to the root cause of their diseases.”
BPC thanks the Walmart Foundation, Amazon, Elevance Health, Instacart, Kaiser Permanente, and Kroger for their support on this project.
Full report available online.