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Assisting Vulnerable Clients to Access Nutritious Food

HUNGER AND HEALTH

In February 2014, The National Foundation to End Senior Hunger (NFESH) released a study entitled The Health Consequences of Senior Hunger in the United States: Evidence from the 1999-2010 NHANES. Commissioned by NFESH and conducted by Dr. James P. Ziliak of the University of Kentucky and Dr. Craig Gundersen of the University of Illinois. This original researchexamines the correlation between food insecurity and negative health consequences among individuals age 60 and older in the United States over a period of a decade. The findings were definitive. Food insecure seniors “were at higher risk of experiencing negative nutrition and health consequences [emphasis added] than food secure seniors.”  This was found to be true for a wide array of negative health outcomes, including diabetes, congestive heart failure, depression, and asthma.

Specifically, seniors at risk of hunger (food insecure) were:

  • 50 percent more likely to be diabetic
  • Twice as likely to report fair or poor general health
  • Three times more likely to suffer from depression
  • Nearly 60 percent more likely to have congestive heart failure or heart attack
  • Twice as likely to have asthma
  • 14 percent more likely to have high blood pressure
  • Twice as likely to report having gum disease
  • 30 percent more likely to report at least one ADL limitation

In summary, this study demonstrated what many of us already know from our work with vulnerable elderly: the lack of proper nutrition can lead to poor health outcomes.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT/ FOOD FOR HEALTH

In July the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a proposed regulation implementing a part of the 2014 Farm Bill that authorizes private nonprofit food purchasing and delivery services (P&D Services) to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits as payment for eligible food items. If this rule is finalized, nonprofit home health and hospice providers, among other eligible organizations, would be able to establish food purchasing and delivery services for SNAP-eligible clients. Patients could use their SNAP benefits to reimburse providers for the cost of food. Providers would have the option of charging clients separately for delivery services. This change will enablehome health and hospice agencies to help improve the nutritional and health status of patients, particularly those suffering from chronic and other diseases known to be impacted by diet. 

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