Addressing nutrition means addressing a critical social determinant of health
Imagine a health care system that “recognizes the critical relationship between food and health, and ensures access to nutrition services that help prevent, manage and treat diet-related illness.” The Massachusetts Food is Medicine State Plan outlines just that.
Launched June 18 at the State House with health experts including several from DentaQuest, the plan includes a set of 15 concrete policy recommendations deemed necessary to achieve such an integrated system. Community Servings and the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School (CHLPI) are leading the plan with grant support from the DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement and Delta Dental of Massachusetts.
The first of its kind in the country, the Food is Medicine plan takes a holistic, person-centered, and community-based approach to improving health. Health care providers can support access to healthy food for people who are food insecure and chronically ill through “food is medicine” interventions, as outlined in the plan. These interventions include healthy meal plans and other food access initiatives customized to provide nutrition based on people’s actual needs such as those living with HIV/AIDS, kidney failure, cancer, and other issues.
Research shows that nutrition and overall health – which starts in the mouth – are inextricably linked. Preventable oral diseases can lead to or exacerbate poor health outcomes, especially for those who already face challenges accessing health care or nutritious food. And the reverse proves true: certain diseases and medications to treat them cause oral complications that can worsen outcomes, like dry mouth, tooth decay and gum disease.
That is why we partnered with Community Servings and CHLPI over the past two years – because health starts in the mouth and food as medicine starts there, too.
With this initiative, the DentaQuest Partnership invested in an innovative, person-centered approach to achieving and maintaining health, one that recognizes the importance of the mouth and good oral health as a fundamental part of overall health. And that investment aligns directly with the DentaQuest Partnership’s commitment to revolutionizing oral health to create an effective and equitable system that results in improved health and well-being for everyone.
This plan has the potential to serve as a national model for integrated health care by demonstrating a holistic, cost-efficient way of managing chronic diseases and reducing associated health care costs for all.
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