May 13, 2022

Improving Public Health Through Nutrition

After seeing the impact COVID-19 has had on our nation, now is the time to put the steps in place to help prevent future public health emergencies and that begins with improving the overall health of our population. As Tina Reed points out in her article for Axios, people with comorbidities like diabetes and obesity were closely linked with a higher risk of serious illness or death related to COVID-19. By making proper nutrition easily accessible to everyone, it can help improve outcomes in even the gravest of circumstances.

The American Heart Association found that 63.5% of coronavirus hospitalizations through November of 2020 were contributed to preventable cardiometabolic conditions such as obesity, hypertension and diabetes. A Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) report found that in 2017-2018, 108 million U.S. adults, nearly 42%, qualified as obese. This means that 42% of American adults were at an increased risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19.

When discussing the various ways that the pandemic affected different populations, the role that diet-related diseases played in outcomes was largely absent and one that needs to come to the forefront. Anand Parekh, Chief Medical Adviser at the Bipartisan Policy Center, explained that communities of color and other disadvantaged communities are even more susceptible to this risk. These are inequities that we are looking to combat through our work at MANNA and while we provide our services to those most in need, proper nutrition and education must become more accessible for all – especially the most vulnerable populations.

While the impact of food-related illnesses is beginning to come to the forefront, it is a topic we have been addressing for years and will continue to do so. We are thankful for elected officials like New Jersey Senator Cory Booker who sponsored legislation calling for a national White House conference on food, nutrition, hunger and health to address nutrition insecurity and diet-related chronic disease. The White House has since gotten behind the conference as President Biden has announced it will take place in September. It is a step in the right direction to see our elected officials begin to understand the power of Food as Medicine but there is still a long way to go.

We call on the healthcare industry to cover dietary prescriptions in the same manner as pharmaceutical prescriptions. This coverage would provide sustainable funding for prescribed meals to protect the most vulnerable of our population and ultimately lower healthcare costs and relieve stress on an overworked healthcare system.