April 11, 2024

Kaiser Permanente Launches Food is Medicine Center of Excellence

Kaiser Permanente, the nation’s largest nonprofit, integrated health care provider, has launched its Food Is Medicine Center of Excellence. The center further integrates Kaiser Permanente’s evidence-based food and nutrition interventions into its care model, bringing resources to its members across the country to improve nutrition security and treat a leading cause of death in the U.S. for adults: diet-related diseases.

Food Is Medicine initiatives are evidence-based solutions for addressing food and nutrition insecurity and the many diet-related, chronic diseases affecting millions of people in the United States and worldwide. Food Is Medicine includes targeted interventions such as medically tailored meals, produce prescriptions, culinary medicine, nutrition counseling and programs that help people access and afford healthy food to effectively treat a range of diet-driven diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and hypertension.

Through the center, Kaiser Permanente seeks to shape the future of food as medicine within health care.

“Kaiser Permanente’s focus on whole-person care allows us to embrace the spectrum of interventions, resources and innovations that are available to fight this widespread and deadly category of disease,” said Nancy Gin, MD, FACP, executive vice president of Quality and chief quality officer for The Permanente Federation. “Our vision is to ensure that our members can access, afford and eat nutritious foods in times of need and beyond.”

The Kaiser Permanente Food Is Medicine Center of Excellence is a central resource that enables members to access evidence-based nutrition interventions and programs to eat healthier and improve their health.

Based on a framework inspired by the National Institutes of Health, the center of excellence will combine clinical services, research, education and community engagement. It will allow Kaiser Permanente to:

  • Expand member screening for food insecurity and nutrition status and connect people to resources, including federal nutrition assistance programs and local resources such as food banks.
  • Expand clinical nutrition training for health professionals by developing medical curricula and supporting nutrition fellowships.
  • Create novel and scalable approaches for providing evidence-based Food Is Medicine programs to members, including produce prescriptions and medically tailored meals, while measuring the effectiveness, outcomes and costs of these interventions.
  • Serve as a research hub to spread and share research and results with experts in the field to further establish the evidence base for Food Is Medicine and increase adoption of these programs in health systems across the country.
  • Expand partnerships with local nonprofits, government agencies and businesses on programs that improve health and nutrition among our members and in our communities.

“There is a growing appetite for treating food as medicine and investing in innovative interventions that will improve our nation’s diet. At HHS, we refer to this as ‘never going mild.’ It’s a shared commitment to embrace bold solutions and never settle for the status quo,” said U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “The Biden-Harris administration will continue to raise public awareness that food is medicine to ensure every American ultimately has access to healthy food.”

Along with the Food Is Medicine Center of Excellence launch, Kaiser Permanente is also committing $2 million to the Share Our Strength organization to support enrollment in Summer EBT (electronic benefit transfer), the first new, permanent federal food assistance program in nearly 50 years. Summer EBT aims to reduce child hunger by providing eligible families with grocery benefits during the summer months, when children have reduced access to school meals.

Kaiser Permanente is a national leader in addressing food and nutrition insecurity, with a history of initiatives to improve health and health equity. In recent years, Kaiser Permanente has helped 125,000 members apply for federal grocery benefits, enrolled 2,100 members and provided more than 116,000 medically tailored meals as part of clinical research studies, partnered with Instacart to study the health impacts of expanding nutritious food access and pioneered a robust culinary medicine program. In 2022, Kaiser Permanente joined national leaders in food and nutrition at the historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, committing $50 million to lead the health care field in advancing the Food Is Medicine movement and strengthen food and nutrition security programs while building evidence for the ways food can treat and prevent certain health conditions. The Kaiser Permanente Food Is Medicine Center of Excellence is an extension of our White House commitments.

“Health care organizations have an important role in advancing the uptake of Food Is Medicine programs that increase consumption of healthy food, particularly among vulnerable populations most affected by diet-related illnesses, said Bechara Choucair, MD, senior vice president and chief health officer at Kaiser Permanente. “By aligning the vast food and nutrition resources at Kaiser Permanente, we can deliver the highest standard of Food Is Medicine programs to our members and help lead the industry in adopting these programs in communities across the nation.”

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