To The Point

Easy access to disease-specific food is not always the answer

Human behavior can be a major hurdle to eating healthier, even when food is free

There is a great deal on information concerning the lack of both understanding and access to food that is specific for certain disease states. We talk about specific diets being beneficial for certain diseases, but we know that access and understanding are deficient in many instances, especially in populations where access to any healthy food is an issue.

MissionPoint Health Partners designed an intervention where disease-specific meals (low salt, low fat) would be delivered to those in need with a specific diagnosis (hypertension and congestive heart failure). We were able to provide one prepared meal a day.

Even though there was an average of 7 pounds of weight loss after eight weeks in those who participated, 50% dropped out during the study period. The reason given most often was that of taste. Since the meal delivered only accounted for 1/3 of their daily meals, taste difference was a major barrier.

This information was surprising, but important. In order to truly change someone’s eating habits, just providing the food is not enough. Taste is a major factor, and more importantly, having the taste be consistent for all one’s meals is likely needed. We tend to forget that there is more to activating and engaging someone than just providing a resource, even when it is free and easily accessible. Solving our healthcare issues will require a much broader solution that is focused on human behavior as well as their physiologic conditions.

This To The Point was written by Jordan Asher, MD, MS, Chief Clinical Officer and Chief Innovation Officer. You can read more of Dr. Asher’s thoughts on value-based healthcare and healthcare reform at his blog, The Positive Contrarian.