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November 28, 2018

1 in 8 Americans can't afford food. Here are 10 ways that impacts their health.

Daily Briefing

    By Jackie Kimmell, Senior Analyst

    In 2017, one in eight Americans was food insecure—defined by limited access to adequate food due to lack of money or other resources. This means that roughly 12% of the US population—40 million Americans and more than 12 million children—didn't have enough money to buy sufficient food for their health. This widespread food insecurity has important implications for providers, as numerous studies have demonstrated how poor access to food increases patients' susceptibility for chronic conditions, worsens health outcomes, and increases the likelihood of ED use and hospitalization. Therefore, as providers look upstream to improve patient health and reduce overall spending, many health systems have prioritized reducing food insecurity in their local communities.

    On Thursday, November 29th, Advisory Board experts will highlight case studies of how six organizations across the county are tackling the issue and outlining the best practices they've learned. They'll also interview Alissa Craig, the administrator of wellness and population health at Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan, to get an on-the-ground account Hurley's Food FARMacy program and the lessons they've learned a year in.

    Register now for the webconference to ask Alissa your own questions, and read on to learn 10 surprising facts about food access and health.

    Register Now

    10 facts about food insecurity that will likely surprise you 

    1. Health care costs are 121% higher for households with very low food security

      A study of over 67,000 Canadians found that, even controlling for a number of related socioeconomic factors, health care costs were 49% higher for households with low food security and 121% higher for households with very low food security (reporting multiple indications of disrupted food eating patterns and reduced food intake). Those costs reflected far greater inpatient care use, more ED visits, additional same-day surgeries, and higher-cost prescription drugs.

    2. Low income only predicts three chronic conditions, while food insecurity is predictive of 10

      A USDA study found that being low income (those who live at at or below 200% of the federal poverty line) is significantly associated with three chronic diseases: hepatitis, arthritis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. But food insecurity is associated with these conditions, and seven others (hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma, diabetes, arthritis, and chronic kidney disease).

    3. Food insecurity raises an individual's risk of chronic disease by 40%.

      The same USDA study shows that adults in households with very low food security have a 52.7% likelihood of having a chronic condition, compared with 37.4% of those in households with high food security. Overall, this means that food insecurity raises one's risk of a chronic disease by 40%.

    4. Those experiencing food insecurity have a 2.6x higher likelihood of depression

      A study based in Washington screened for depression and food insecurity among adults with annual incomes less than 250% of the federal poverty line. The researchers found those who were both low income and food insecure had a 2.6 higher likelihood of being depressed than those who just had a low income.

    5. Those experiencing food insecurity have a 32% greater risk of obesity

      In a 12-state-wide study including over 66,000 adults, those who were food insecure were 32% more likely to be obese than those who were food secure.

    6. Children below age three in food insecure households have a 31% greater risk of hospitalization

      One study found that young children living in food insecure households were nearly one-third more likely to have been hospitalized than their food secure peers. And considering that each pediatric hospitalization costs an average of $12,000, this can lead to high costs for families and their employers.  

    7. Hundreds of children are hospitalized for nutritional deficiency each year—just one of these deficiency diagnoses cost Medicaid $1.25 million total in 2003.

      In 2003, nearly 400 children under the age of five were hospitalized with a primary diagnosis of a nutritional deficiency. And just one of these diagnoses—protein-calorie malnutrition—cost Medicaid $1.25 million in that same year.

    8. Food insecure students are 127% more likely to have behavioral problems in school

      According to a study from 2006, students are far more likely to act out in school when they are facing food insecurity at home.

    9. Having SNAP benefits reduces likelihood of hospitalization by 14%

      In a study looking at older adults in Maryland, receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits reduced the likelihood for hospitalization by 14% and reduced the likelihood of the recipient spending each individual day in the hospital by 10%.

    10. A study in Massachusetts estimated that food insecurity increased health-related expenditures by an estimated $2.4 billion in 2016

      Two nonprofits in Massachusetts conducted a large study using research on food insecurity and state-wide health cost data to estimate the cost of food insecurity on the state. They found that, including the avoidable costs of doctor's visits, hospitalizations, ED visits, prescriptions, and home health utilization, as well as lost work time, low productivity, premature death, and special education expenditures, food insecurity cost the state at least $2.4 billion in 2016 alone.

    Want to learn more about the impact of food insecurity on the health of your patients and your community? Join us tomorrow, November 29th, at 3 pm ET to learn more about how your organization can address the issue. We'll cover key components programs need to have, go over case studies of leading organizations in the field, and offer a first-hand look into Hurley Medical Center's new program.

    Join the Webconference

    Can't make it? Be sure to download our research report on Provider-Led Strategies to Address Food Insecurity to learn more.

    Download the Report

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