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Helping At-Risk Patients Eat Healthy

May 11, 2017

Hospitals Partner with Community Organizations, Insurers, and Public Health on Healthy Food Access Pilot

Seven Philadelphia-area health systems representing 18 hospitals, ten community partners, two health plans, and several public health agencies have begun a Healthy Food Access Pilot designed to connect patients in need with appropriate resources and programs.

The hospitals that have committed to the pilot include Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Einstein Healthcare Network, Holy Redeemer Health System, Jefferson Health (including Abington Jefferson Health and Aria-Jefferson Health), Mercy Health System, Temple University Health System, and University of Pennsylvania Health System.

Hospitals are implementing the Healthy Food Access Pilot according to a framework developed collaboratively with community, insurer, and public health partners. Each hospital or health system will select one more patient areas or clinical settings in which to try out that framework for about 12 months. In these settings, trained hospital staff will:

  • Ask patients about food insecurity, defined as consistent access to sufficient nutritious food necessary to lead a healthy life
  • Connect patients who need help with programs and resources for getting healthy food
  • Track the results of this effort by collecting and sharing agreed-upon measures such as the number of patients screened, screening results, referrals to community organizations, and referral success rates

Hospitals have identified clinical settings for the pilot. To screen patients for food insecurity, hospitals are using two questions proven by research to be respectful and valid. Hospitals are also working on:

  • Engaging care teams in the pilot, including community health workers, social workers, case managers, nurses, and physicians
  • Integrating screening results into patients’ electronic medical records
  • Developing referral lists, staff procedures such as “warm handoffs,” and electronic communications to connect patients with benefits and resources and assist with follow up
  • Exploring partnerships with grocery stores, food banks and food buying clubs, community gardens, anti-hunger organizations, social service agencies, and programs such as Early Head Start

Community organizations and insurers that have agreed to share their expertise, knowledge about healthy food resources, and community connections include Benefits Data Trust, Drexel University’s Center for Hunger-Free Communities, Coalition Against Hunger, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, The Food Trust, Health Federation of Philadelphia, Health Partners Plans, Keystone First, Philabundance, Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations, SHARE Food Program, and United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey.

Participating public health agencies include Montgomery County Health Department, Philadelphia Department of Public Health, Pennsylvania Department of Health, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Region III.

The hospitals, community organizations, insurers, and public health agencies involved in the Healthy Food Access Pilot are part of a collaborative effort to address socioeconomic factors that can jeopardize patients’ health and the effectiveness of their health care. Dubbed COACH—short for Collaborative Opportunities to Advance Community Health—the pilot is the group’s first undertaking.

COACH grew out of hospital meetings convened by The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP). The Health Care Improvement Foundation (HCIF) is facilitating the collaborative under contract with HAP.

“COACH is an innovative and promising way to tackle one of the most perplexing challenges of health and health care,” said Andy Carter, HAP president and CEO. “Being able to get excellent medical care is an essential ingredient to good health. But experts say that socioeconomic factors, like income levels and whether we can afford healthy food, may play an even bigger role in our overall health.”

This one-page infographic provides additional information on the impact of food insecurity on health and health care and the Healthy Food Access Pilot.

ABOUT HAP:  HAP is a statewide membership services organization that advocates for nearly 240 Pennsylvania acute and specialty care, primary care, subacute care, long-term care, home health, and hospice providers, as well as the patients and communities they serve. Additional information about HAP is available online at www.haponline.org.

About HCIF:  HCIF is an independent, nonprofit organization that drives high-value health care through stakeholder collaboration and targeted quality improvement initiatives. We are dedicated to the vision of a responsive, coordinated health care community that fulfills the needs of patients and consumers, and achieves better health.



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