On June 13, 2016, CHLPI Clinical Instructor Sarah Downer presented to over 100 attendees at the American Diabetes Association’s 76th Scientific Sessions on policy and advocacy tools to address diabetes in low-income populations. In a session titled Improving Diabetes Outcomes in Low-Income Populations: When Food Access is the problem, Sarah joined Massachusetts General Hospital expert in diabetes clinical care Dr. Seth Berkowitz, Feeding America Consulting Project Manager Kim Prendergast, and Nutrition Education Manager of the Food Bank of Corpus Christi Kate Hilliard to discuss the link between diabetes and diet.
Dr. Berkowitz shared the latest research on how food insecurity increases the risk of diabetes and contributes to worse diabetes outcomes. Kim Prendergast described Feeding America’s member food bank partnerships with healthcare providers and the impact of the organization’s innovative diabetes-appropriate food box intervention for individuals with diabetes. Kate Hilliard discussed strategies her food bank uses to reach the underserved populations in Corpus Christi, including individuals who move frequently, do not speak English, and/or do not have health insurance.
Closing the panel, Sarah called on the attendees to be advocates for policy change and champions of using food and nutrition interventions to address diabetes. She outlined policy priorities including: (1) requiring/incentivizing screening for food insecurity in the clinical setting, (2) developing braided funding streams for healthcare and community-based resource providers to support delivery of enhanced services, (3) increasing research into the impact of different levels of food-based interventions on diabetes, and (4) acting immediately to conduct pilot and demonstration projects within our current public healthcare systems.
Attendees were enthusiastic about pursuing opportunities to expand access to medically-tailored food to their patients, who face numerous health and resource challenges and often must make terrible choices between paying for medication or buying food.