“…food and nutrition interventions that facilitate or encourage the consumption of foods that are appropriate for identified health conditions or disease risk factors should be fully integrated into healthcare.” -Food is Prevention: The Case for Integrating Food and Nutrition Interventions into Healthcare, Center for Health Law & Policy Innovation, Harvard Law School, July 2015

Food and Preventive Health

The U.S. Food Industry grosses $1 trillion yearly, $450 billion in gross profit. U.S. Health Care costs total 2.7 trillion yearly – 75% of which is chronic disease – 75% of which is preventable. Thus $1.4 Trillion is wasted. We lose triple what the food industry makes. This is unsustainable, and explains why Medicare is going broke and Social Security is threatened worldwide.

If we get the food right, good health is likely to follow. Food is the most basic tool in preventive health care. Sadly, the processed food experiment has failed it’s promise. Real health only comes from eating real food, and sometimes this means paying a little more. But the true cost of food can only be measured if you factor in the “externalities” like what the food does to your health.

Does it take a little extra time to shop for whole fresh food, or visit your local farmers’ market every week? Maybe. But think about what all that cheap, fast, convenience food is really costing. Where would you rather spend your time – at the farmers’ market or the doctor’s office?

 

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Metabolic Disease

Just look at one metabolic (food related) disease): Over 50% of adults in the U.S. have prediabetes or diabetes. Diabetes is an expensive disease to treat, costing the United States $244 billion in 2012, according to an analysis of the disease’s economic burden. When the loss of productivity due to illness and disability is added in, the bill comes to $322 billion, or $1,000 a year for each American, including those without diabetes. For a person diagnosed with diabetes, the average economic burden is over $10,000 a year. Caring for a pregnant woman with gestational diabetes costs $5,800 a year. Undiagnosed diabetes costs $4,030 a case, and prediabetes, or having abnormal blood sugar that doesn’t met the diagnostic criteria for diabetes, $510. Imagine if we could spend all that money on real food instead!

Sugar is Killing Us

Fred Water is a company that wants to make drinking water easy and fun. 

And, well you guessed it – sugary beverages have to go – they are killing us!

So, they produced Sugar is Killing Us (over 700,000 views on YouTube) and then gave it to the Institute for Responsible Nutrition to promote – along with a Facebook page that we have grown to include almost 19,000 followers.

They held an amazingly successful Kickstarter Campaign (watch the campaign video – its hilarious!) to fund a cool stainless steel refillable flask to hold water – that will fit in your back pocket or your purse.

If you haven’t seen the Sugar is Killing Us – check it out below!

 

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
  • One of every five U.S. health care dollars is spent on caring for people with diagnosed diabetes.
  • Annual health care costs are $1,400 higher for people who are obese, and $6,600 higher for those who have diabetes than for nonsmokers, people who are not obese, or people do not have diabetes.
  • A 1% reduction in weight, blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol risk factors would save $83 to $103 annually in medical costs per person.
  • Medical costs are reduced by approximately $3.27 for every dollar spent on workplace wellness programs, according to a recent study.
  • Dietary sodium is linked to increased prevalence of hypertension, a primary risk factor for cardiovascular and renal diseases.
  • Reducing average population sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams per day could save $18 billion in health care costs annually.
  • Prevention increases productivity. Indirect costs to employers of employee poor health—lower productivity, higher rates of disability, higher rates of injury, and more workers’ compensation claims—can be two to three times the costs of direct medical expenses.
  • Asthma, high blood pressure, smoking, and obesity each reduce annual productivity by between $200 and $440 per person.
  • Workers with diabetes average two more work days absent per year than workers without diabetes.
  • Absenteeism costs are reduced by approximately $2.73 for every dollar spent on workplace wellness programs, according to a recent study.
  • Research from the Milken Institute suggests that a modest reduction in avoidable risk factors could lead to a gain of more than $1 trillion annually in labor supply and efficiency by 2023.
Poverty, Food and Health
Difficulty with paying for food, medicine, or both is a problem facing one out of three Americans. If better food options were available through food banks, soup kitchens, and SNAP for low-income people, obesity and the chronic conditions that come along with it would be better controlled. Ironically, food banks are often a dumping ground for the processed food industry – which can be a problem for people on low incomes who are most vulnerable to the negative health impacts caused by processed foods.

One national organization called Amp Your Good, provides an excellent alternative (“crowdfeeding”), which allows donors to give healthy, whole real food to people who really need it.

The New Face of Hunger
Hunger no longer lives in neat little pockets of poverty – It is spread all over.  Conventional foundations and funders typically use a threshold of 50% poverty or more in a given community, before they consider funding. But look at Silicon Valley, just south of San Francisco. If Silicon Valley were a country, it’d be sixth in the world in GDP per capita. In this epicenter of wealth, over one third of the students in Silicon Valley are eligible to receive free or reduced price school meals – currently hovering around 36%. The Second Harvest Food Bank’s Hunger Index reports that 25% of residents in Santa Clara County are at risk of hunger. Low-income households are being squeezed financially, with money spread thin across necessities like housing, clothing, and medical bills. Too often people have little money left for food, which means more food assistance is needed – all this means that a growing number of Silicon Valley residents are one bill away from homelessness. 29% of the region’s residents in 2012 were not self-sufficient (they did not make enough money to meet their basic needs without public assistance). Again, this is Silicon Valley – one of the wealthiest regions on Earth!
Action for Healthy Food
Action for Healthy Food is an educational non-profit focused primarily on added sugar and the impact it has on public health. The organization supports policy interventions to reduce consumption of added sugar.