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Food prescription program aims to expand access to healthy options

The program aims to circumvent the need for medication by offering patients healthier food options instead.
Food prescription program aims to expand access to healthy options
Posted at 1:02 PM, Jun 26, 2023

The world is facing a global epidemic of diet-related chronic illnesses.

According to the American Society for Nutrition, a study conducted by the British Medicine Association found that 1 of every 5 deaths across the globe is attributable to suboptimal diet — more than any other risk factor, including tobacco. That's why organizers in Kentucky are creating a pilot program to prescribe food to patients instead of modern medicine.

Dr. John Stewart is a primary care physician with the University of Kentucky's new Food as Health Alliance that created the program.

"People that struggle to find healthy foods, a lot of times it can feel that the healthier option is more expensive," Stewart told Scripps News. "We want to be able to provide people with opportunity and resources for food that helps nourish their bodies and live healthier lives."

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Stewart says the focus is on patients with certain health conditions, like hypertension or Type 2 diabetes, who also deal with food insecurity. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 33.8 million people in the U.S. lived in food insecure households last year.

"We're seeing if we can impact those things over the course of time by allowing people to eat fresh, healthier foods," Stewart added. "We're going to see if we can achieve lower blood pressures and lower sugar levels in our patients."

The program partners with area food banks to pack, prepare and deliver meals straight to the homes of patients who may lack access or funds for healthy food.

The study is slated to begin this fall, and doctors hope other states can mimic their program if it's a success.

"We prescribe medicine all the time for these medical conditions," Stewart said. "A lot of time, just by eating healthier foods, [patients] might not have to take medications every day."

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