Main menu


Tufts University steps up efforts to grow the 'food as medicine' movement

featured image

Millions of Americans are affected by food insecurity and suffer from diet-related diseases, including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. While many disease factors are genetic, others are more controllable, in especially nutrition, at the center of the growing “food is medicine” field. Dr.Fang Fang ZhangAssociate Professor and Acting Chair of the Division of Nutritional Epidemiology and Data Science at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, discusses the school’s goals and what researchers like her are doing to achieve this.

Can you share some of the goals of the Friedman School’s work related to food, nutrition, and health?

One of the priorities is to translate science into action: bringing cutting-edge and actionable policy evidence, strategies and interventions to decision-makers and other relevant stakeholders to help solve the nutrition crisis. Recently, some of our faculty led the formation of an independent, bipartisan task force that made recommendations to inform the second White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health held in September. The last conference of this type dates back to 1969, chaired by Jean Mayer, founder of the Friedman school. It was a historic event that had significant and lasting impacts on reducing hunger in the United States. The school will continue to support the national strategies released at this year’s conference: improving nutrition, reducing diet-related disease, and addressing equity through excellence in research, education, and advocacy. interests.

Your research focuses on the relationship between nutrition and cancer and outcomes. What are you most optimistic about?

Various factors contributing to cancer risk. These include host factors, such as our age and genes; environmental factors, such as environmental pollution, radiation and infection; and diet and lifestyle factors. Some of these risk factors are modifiable and therefore potentially preventable. We have estimated that approximately 5% of new cancer cases each year in the United States are attributable to poor diet, including low consumption of whole grains, dairy products, vegetables and fruits, and high meat consumption. processed and red and sugar. .sugary drinks. This means that more than 80,000 new cases of cancer each year in our country are preventable.

You are also part of a team studying the benefits of prescription drug programs. Can you discuss how they work?

Product prescriptions involve clinicians providing advice and assistance to patients to access healthy products for disease prevention and management. Supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and Kaiser Permanente, we have just completed an evaluation of nine product prescription programs involving more than 1,800 children and 2,000 adults at risk for poor cardiometabolic health. In these programs, patients were referred by healthcare providers to receive vouchers or cards loaded with monetary incentives. Patients can redeem the vouchers or use the card to buy fruits and vegetables at local grocery stores or farmers’ markets. Significant increases in fruit and vegetable consumption and reductions in household food security were observed after participation. Additionally, significant improvements in cardiometabolic health were noted in adult participants, such as reductions in hemoglobin A1c and systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

How can healthcare leaders help advance the food is medicine movement in their organizations?

Hospitals can integrate food and nutrition screening into electronic health records and include referrals for patients eligible to receive “food is medicine” services as part of routine clinical care. Leaders can also take advantage of existing opportunities to pay for services such as providing prescriptions and medically-appropriate meals under federal health care programs. For example, state Medicaid agencies may use authorities such as Section 1115 demonstration waivers to test the impact of coverage for these programs or provide authorization for Medicaid managed care plans to cover food is medicine programs.

Download the Modern Healthcare app to stay informed when industry news is breaking.