Addressing Food Insecurity in a Health Care Setting

by Stephen Friedhoff, MD Chief Clinical Officer, Anthem, Inc.

Food insecurity is one of the most pressing challenges facing our health care industry today. Access to affordable, nutritious food plays a crucial role in a person’s overall health and well-being. Research indicates that poor nutrition and an unhealthy diet are the leading risk factors for various chronic conditions, including heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and other diet-related diseases (Social Determinants of Health: Addressing Access to Affordable and Nutritious Food for Underserved Populations. Health Outreach Partners., 2014).

To help address this issue, the Anthem Foundation and Feeding America have partnered to launch the ‘Food is Medicine’ initiative. Throughout this yearlong program, select essential hospital systems will partner with seven food banks to conduct universal food insecurity screenings and interventions. The program will connect people facing hunger to healthy food distribution programs at the site of care. Participating hospital systems aim to screen between 3,000 and 4,000 patients over the course of the year at each location where the ‘Food is Medicine’ program is in place.

While it’s clear that access to healthy food options is essential to a person’s overall health and well-being, this important social determinant of health is often overlooked or not screened for in the health care setting. Through this innovative collaboration, the Anthem Foundation and Feeding America are joining forces to increase awareness about the intersection of hunger and health, while also building partnerships with food banks and hospital outpatient clinics to help screen for and alleviate food insecurity.

As we work to end the devastating reality of food insecurity, it’s clear that collaboration is key. When organizations with different backgrounds and expertise – like the Anthem Foundation and Feeding America – team up to address critical issues such as food insecurity, we can truly make a difference in the lives of the people we serve.

Dr. Stephen G. Friedhoff serves as Senior Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer for Anthem, Inc. He is responsible for leading Anthem’s strategic quality and healthcare delivery programs with a focus on improving outcomes for consumers. Prior to his current position, Dr. Friedhoff held the role of Senior Vice President, Clinical Strategy & Programs. Previously, he served as the Chief Medical Officer of Anthem’s Government Business Division and held a similar role with Amerigroup Corporation prior to Amerigroup’s acquisition by Anthem.