March 30, 2017 — Community Servings, a Boston-based nonprofit that delivers meals to disadvantaged, critically ill patients throughout Massachusetts, recently announced that it has been awarded $358,040 to research the impact of medically tailored meals.
Community Servings said the funding, from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, will support a partnership with Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston that will use five years of statewide data to evaluate the impact of medically tailored meal programs on health care expenditures, inpatient hospitalizations, and emergency department visits in severely ill and nutritionally vulnerable adults.
Community Servings was one of 16 grant recipients nationally, out of hundreds of applications, since the foundation initiated its Evidence for Action program two years ago.
The project will assess outcomes for Community Servings’ clients, compared to insurance claims data from the Massachusetts All-Payer Claims Database. The study population will include more than 10,000 adults with serious illness, such as HIV/AIDS, end-stage renal disease, cancer and diabetes, who qualify for medically tailored meals.
“Our team has long understood that malnutrition is a significant factor in the worsening health outcomes of individuals facing disease and chronic illness,” said Community Servings CEO David B. Waters. “We applaud the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for their focus on research that considers how social determinants influence health outcomes. By building a data-driven case for the impact of integrating accessible, medically appropriate meals into the healthcare system, we hope to fundamentally change public policy.”
According to Community Servings, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently found that social risk factors play a pivotal role in health. Complications associated with food insecurity and inadequate nutrition are increasingly recognized as critical and costly social determinants of health. The home delivery of medically tailored meals relies on the premise that tailoring foods to particular clinical and nutritional needs is critical to improving health.
Research results are expected to inform policy discussions about partnerships between social services and health care organizations in the effort to improve health outcomes for the severely ill who are high utilizers of health care and will help build the case for medically tailored meals as a covered benefit for specific, high-risk individuals and provide a pathway for scaling the model at the national level.
Dr. Nancy Adler, director of Evidence for Action, said, “The Community Servings research project will be a key step towards testing the idea of ‘food is medicine’, providing critical evidence on the efficacy of these kinds of interventions that bridge social services and health care.”
Community Servings provides services throughout Massachusetts to individuals and families living with more than 30 critical and chronic illnesses, including HIV/AIDS, cancer, and multiple sclerosis, daily delivering free meals and snacks to 1,850 clients, their dependent families, and caregivers.