As health care delivery moves toward a population health management focus, hospitals and health systems are recognizing the significance of addressing determinants of health. Food insecurity is one such determinant and should be considered as part of a population health strategy. A new guide from the Health Research & Educational Trust, part of the American Hospital Association, explores the impact of food insecurity on communities and offers some recommendations for how hospitals can step in to help.

Food insecurity has been linked to health issues, including chronic illness and childhood developmental challenges, amid other health-related concerns. A survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2016 found that families experiencing food insecurity feel the effects in several ways. Some of these are as follows:

  • Cut the size of meals or skip meals
  • Eat less than they feel they should
  • Feel hungry but do not eat
  • Go full days without eating
  • Lose weight
  • Struggle to afford balanced meals
  • Worry that food will run out

Hospitals and health systems can help by screening patients for food insecurity and hunger and partnering with community organizations to offer programs and resources that increase access to healthy foods.

The guide offers clinical and nonclinical recommendations and case studies for hospitals interested in learning how to address food insecurity.

For more information on this issue, see our Food Insecurity page with links to H&HN coverage and other AHA resources. You can also view the slides or watch a recording of the AHA's “Food Insecurity and the Role of Hospitals” webinar.