Fighting Bad Health with Good Food in Missouri
Too many Missourians struggle with chronic health conditions and some are looking more closely at their diets to control or even prevent them.
Supporters of the "Food is Medicine" movement believe it's time to shift healthcare thinking to include good nutrition as a way to drive better health outcomes.
Emily Brown, CEO of Free From Market, a nutrition-based grocery and educational resource, said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services can help states like Missouri apply for what's known as a Section 1115 waiver to permit Medicaid and Medicare to cover the costs of healthy foods and fresh produce for some of their most vulnerable residents.
"This means that their healthcare provider, their health plan, are looking to use access to the right foods to help manage their chronic conditions and improve their health outcomes," Brown explained. "It could also mean providing fresh produce, or access to healthy meals, after someone is discharged from the hospital."
Missouri is not on the current waiver list, but there are plenty of reasons for Missourians to eat healthier. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said almost two in three residents are overweight or obese. One-third have high blood pressure. And the American Diabetes Association said more than a half million Missourians are diabetic, with another 1.5 million at risk of developing diabetes.
Along with the Medicaid waivers, people can get support in selecting the healthy foods they need, even having them delivered if lack of transportation is an issue, as in many rural areas of Missouri.
Brown noted having access to the right food at the right time has been a powerful tool in her own home.
"I have two daughters that have chronic conditions where food is part of the standard of care," Brown pointed out. "And like many Missouri residents, we were on WIC, on SNAP -- actually a Medicaid beneficiary at the time -- and couldn't get the foods that we needed to keep my daughters healthy and safe."
The Nutrition Incentive Program includes getting doctors to prescribe fresh fruits and vegetables to help people consume healthier foods. Brown added it also helps to reduce food insecurity and medical costs.
The Missouri Public News Service is a partner with KRCU Public Radio.