Ada Peters and Richard H. Hughes, IV, attorneys in the Health Care & Life Sciences practice, co-authored an article in Health Affairs, titled “Food Is Medicine: The Road to Universal Coverage.”

Following is an excerpt:

In exchange for spending more on health care than any other high-income country, the US has the lowest rate of life expectancy and the highest rate of chronic disease. Diet-related conditions claim 1.7 million US lives every year and are the leading driver behind the $4.1 trillion spent on health care each year. Furthermore, treatment for these conditions cost public health care programs such as Medicare and Medicaid nearly $384 billion annually—a figure that is only expected to increase over time.

Like most public health challenges, addressing the US’s chronic disease epidemic requires multiple interventions at multiple levels. Yet, today, food is rarely considered a medically necessary treatment modality that should be just as integrated in clinical care as surgeries, blood tests, and pharmaceuticals.

The Food is Medicine (FIM) movement seeks to fill this disconnect by linking food-based interventions to address the specific health needs of individuals and populations. There are no strict boundaries that define FIM, but interventions generally come in three forms: medically tailored meals, medically tailored groceries or food packages, and produce prescriptions. All three interventions are most effective when they coincide with counseling by a registered dietitian nutritionist. These interventions have the potential to disproportionately benefit populations most at risk for chronic disease, including racial and ethnic minorities, rural Americans, and individuals with physical disabilities.

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