October 23, 2013 Articles

Miracle Drugs Have a Familiar Face

Food and nutrition make a tremendous difference in health-care costs.

By Lydia Cipriani

When Brown University researchers conducted a study detailing the positive effects of “Meals on Wheels” on health-care outcomes, they didn’t tell us anything we didn’t know already. But our results at MANNA (Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance)—dealing not simply with the elderly but with a diverse population of young and old, working and non-working, poor and middle class—highlight a new miracle drug that most hospitals and health-care professionals overlook: food.

At MANNA, we know food. We live food. Every month we prepare over 75,000 meals to deliver to critically ill people in the Delaware Valley. These meals provide the patients (and in some cases their at-home children and caregivers) with three healthy, delicious meals a day, seven days a week, tailored specifically for their medical conditions. Over a third of MANNA clients have cancer, 25 percent suffer from renal disease, and 17 percent are HIV/AIDS positive.

“This is where we can do the most good and make the biggest difference,” says Sue Daugherty, MANNA’s executive director. “Our own studies have shown that medically supervised nourishment reduces hospital stays, lowers hospital costs, reduces actual hospitalizations, and MANNA clients are more likely to be released to their homes rather than long term care facilities.”

Daugherty is referring to a pilot study conducted by the OMG Center for Collaborative Learning. The study tracked average monthly health-care expenditures for MANNA clients and compared them with expenditures for a control group. The results were extraordinary.

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