Pennsylvania Association of

Community Health Centers

Supporting Pennsylvania's health centers in increasing access to quality primary health care for all

Your Primary Care Media Center

Pennsylvania Association of Community Health Centers serves as the collective voice for Pennsylvania's Federally Qualified Health Centers (FHQCs), FQHC Look-Alikes (FQHCLAs), and non-profit Rural Health Clinics (RHCs).  Our members are unique nonprofit primary care facilities that provide a wide array of services to Pennsylvanians in underserved areas of the state. There are nearly 300 sites in 52 counties serving over 800,000 Pennsylvanians.  At these primary care facilities, patients will receive high quality care at a price they can afford with sliding fees based on income and family size.


Monday, February 19, 2018

Connections Between Food Insecurity and Health

The Intersection between Hunger and Health
The USDA defines food insecurity(FI) as a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.  For your patients, being food insecure means they do NOT have access to the foods they need for a healthy, active life. This 3-part series will define the social determinants of health, specifically food insecurity, its impact on health, and finally how healthcare systems across the country are aligning with our nation’s emergency feeding network to not only identify need but assist with access to existing community support systems. Lastly, healthcare providers are asked to consider ways to engage in health and nutrition education outreach at the food distribution level, effectively “meeting people where they are” with the care that they need.

What are the Connections Between Food Insecurity and Health?
The Hunger in America 2014 survey found that many households served by the Feeding America® network of food banks include people coping with a chronic disease that is impacted by dietary intake. Fifty-eight percent of households have at least one member with high blood pressure and 33 percent have at least one member with diabetes.

The cycle of food insecurity and chronic disease begins when an individual or family cannot afford enough nutritious food. The combination of stress and poor nutrition can make disease management even more challenging. Further, the time and money needed to respond to these worsening health crises drains the household budget, leaving little money for essential nutrition and medical care. This causes the cycle to continue. Many families experiencing food insecurity often have several, if not all, compounding factors which makes maintaining good health extremely difficult.

Nutrient deficiencies and toxicity from a poor diet are linked to nearly all modern health conditions. Diabetes and heart disease are also illnesses that are highly influenced by one’s diet — and the same can be said for allergies, autoimmune disorders like arthritis, thyroid disorders and many more.

What is the work being done in the charitable food sector?
Like many regional food banks across our nation, the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank is engaged in creating partnerships with healthcare providers throughout their 27-county service area.  Along with an aggressive move over the last 8 years to source and distribute highly nutritious “foods to encourage”, the Food Bank’s goal in its new Health Innovations Initiative is to introduce healthcare providers to, and encourage implementation of, food insecurity screening as a part of the routine patient assessment process. Not only is it important to screen patients seeking medical attention for food insecurity, but also to know how to refer patients to food distribution programs. Regional food banks across Pennsylvania, are also engaging in these efforts and are at various levels of implementation strategies.
The charitable food sector, including institutions like food banks, food pantries, soup kitchens and feeding programs, are addressing food insecurity while promoting health.  Increasingly, hunger-relief efforts are focused on health-focused initiatives through partnerships, targeted programming, nutrition education, collective impact, and community change.  Many initiatives are in place across our country and new partnerships are being formed every day!

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