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Why Should Health Care and Food Banks Forge Partnerships?

Social determinants of health, such as access to enough nutritious foods, play a considerable role in disease prevention, health status and health outcomes. An estimated 20 percent of a person’s health status is predicted by health care services such as visiting a doctor. Socioeconomic factors such as location (zip code), food insecurity and health behaviors (e.g., smoking status, BMI) are estimated to play a much larger role [i]. As a result, health care organizations are considering ways to effectively address food insecurity and other social determinants of health in an effort to implement “upstream” interventions that support the health of patients and reduce health care costs.


Getting Started

There are many different partnerships that health care partners and food distribution organizations can forge to address specific health issues that affect your community. Start understanding the main health issues in your community by exploring these questions:

  • Who are the key health care organizations in your community?
  • What does your local Community Health Needs Assessment say about priority health issues?
  • What problems are the health care providers trying to solve? How can improving food access play a role?

For more about the Community Health Needs Assessment Process, see the Public Health Institute Report: Making Food Systems Part of Your CHNA 

Resources from Feeding America’s “Food Banks as Partners in Health Promotion” Series

Types of Partnership Activities

Around the country, community based organizations such as food banks are finding success with partnerships to address the food insecurity and health needs of their common patients and clients. Early food bank-health care partnership activities address food insecurity as a social determinant of health, or link health care partners with food insecure people to support the health and health care access priorities of the community. Those food bank-health care partnership activities fall into three main categories:

Addressing Food Insecurity in Health Care Settings

Addressing Health at Food Distribution Sites

Addressing Health Care Coverage Needs


Evaluating Food Bank and Health Care Partnership Activities

Evaluation of partnership activities often is focused on the impact on food insecurity status or health status of the client/patient. However, community based organizations and their health care partners are encouraged to evaluate the success of the food insecurity screening activities, the referral processes, and other elements of the partnership to support the replication and scaling of these efforts.

One framework to consider utilizing is the RE-AIM framework, which was designed to incorporate research and evaluation into public health programs and initiatives.

Sources

  1. Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement. Going Beyond Clinical Walls: Solving Complex Problems (October 2014)