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Healthcare providers find tool for change in food “playbook”

We’ve written before on our blog about the groundbreaking work being done by Marydale DeBor, who has upended the conversation about food in health through her work in hospitals and healthcare providers in Connecticut. Thankfully, there’s a whole movement of folks like Marydale working across the country to reconsider the role of food in healthcare.

Towards this end, Health Care Without Harm released their new resource guide, “Delivering community benefit: Healthy food playbook,” at the beginning of March. This project is aimed at encouraging hospitals to leverage their significant financial and community resources towards food-systems change. As tax-exempt entities, nonprofit hospitals are required to run community programs, which traditionally have taken the form of free or reduced-cost care programs for individuals who can’t afford healthcare. The 2010 Affordable Care Act expanded this responsibility to require nonprofit hospitals to conduct community health needs assessments (CHNAs) and to develop implementation strategies to engage with uncovered needs.

Hospitals have started performing these assessments, and more often than not find that food plays a pivotal role in the health of their communities: 71% of CHNAs identify obesity as a top concern, and 13% identify food insecurity or healthy food access as key needs. With Health Care Without Harm’s playbook, hospitals can find best practices and case studies to help them engage with these needs, and likely will discover that changing community food environments pays dividends towards health of all sorts. As the playbook puts it:

“Investing community benefit and other resources in local and sustainable food initiatives and enterprises can be a pillar of a community development framework that addresses multiple social determinants of health by supporting economic growth, workforce development, access to healthy and affordable food, social cohesion, and personal well-being.”

Acknowledging the wide-ranging benefits of building better food systems has been a part of New Haven Farms’ philosophy since the beginning. Thankfully, this philosophy has been shared by partnering local healthcare providers , such as Fair Haven Community Health Care, Yale Primary Care, and Cornell Scott Hill Health Center. With the backing of “anchor institutions” like these that are ahead of the curve, grassroots initiatives like New Haven Farms can find new ways to address the root causes of health inequity and make real a world where healthcare does not get confined to the walls of the hospital.

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