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Healthy food prescription yields more benefits; less costly than meds

Healthy food prescription yields more benefits; less costly than meds

April 3, 2019

A rapidly ageing population and rising healthcare costs have led experts to estimate that healthcare spending will continue growing. However, the US has healthcare programmes that support certain groups of marginalised people, including those with limited income and resources.

Medicare and Medicaid are the two largest healthcare programmes in the US; Medicare accounted for 15% of the federal budget in 2017, while the projected Medicare spending will reach 18% by 2028.

Healthful food prescriptions in these health programmes would apparently be more cost-effective after 5 five years compared to preventive drug treatments for major diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.

The study, by team of researchers from Tufts University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, US, found that offsetting the cost of healthful foods by about 30% through health insurance would improve health and reduce costs.

The researchers modeled two different scenarios: in both scenarios, the programmes would cover 30% of fruit and vegetable purchases and another 30% of purchases of whole grains, nuts, seafood, and plant oils in the second scenario. The findings showed a total prevention of about 5 million cases of heart disease as well as 120,000 cases of diabetes due to the role that whole grains, nuts, and seeds play in diabetes prevention.

Co-first author of the study, Yujin Lee, PhD, said that encouraging people to eat healthy foods through healthy food prescriptions could be similarly or more cost-effective as other common interventions, such as preventative drug treatments.

When comparing the net costs with savings and health benefits, both scenarios were highly cost-effective: the total costs for subsidising just fruits and vegetables were $122.6 billion, instead of $210.4 billion to cover the broader range of foods.

The findings form part of the Food Policy Review and Intervention Cost-Effectiveness (Food-PRICE) research initiative, which seeks to improve the health of the US population by identifying possible nutrition strategies and evaluating their cost-effectiveness.

Dr Dariush Mozaffarian of Food-PRICE has also said that innovative programmes that encourage and reimburse healthy eating should be integrated into the healthcare system.

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Category: Wellness and Complementary Therapies

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