NPR’s All Things Considered, recently featured a program, run by the University of Illinois, that provides housing to patients with an array of medical conditions, who are dealing with homelessness and cycling in and out of the hospital. God’s Love We Deliver commends the efforts of the University of Illinois and, at the same time, hopes to extend this conversation beyond housing. Housing is a vital stabilizer for patients in the community, but it does not address the clinical effects of living with multiple chronic illnesses. Housing will reduce the amount of recurrent visits from those who frequent the hospital solely because of their homelessness (because they want a warm, safe place to stay), but it will do very little for those who frequent the hospital because they are ill. At God’s Love We Deliver, we know housing is extremely important, which is why we strive to keep our clients healthy and at home, yet we know that access to food and nutrition services should be just as important to hospitals and other healthcare entities.
Our response to serious illness and healthcare costs requires a multifaceted approach. The discussion cannot end at housing. The report cited in the NPR article says that 5 percent of Medicaid beneficiaries account for 54 percent of the total Medicaid expenditures. This 5 percent are “superutlizers” of the healthcare system. Arguably, the most efficient way to reduce healthcare costs is to address the needs of these superutilizers. Malnutrition is a root of the problem. 1 in 3 people enter the hospital malnourished, and adding medically tailored meals to a care plan can reduce healthcare costs up to 29%. By medically tailoring meals to meet our client’s illnesses and delivering those meals right to their door, clients are able to better cope with their illnesses, adhere to their medication, and stay out of the hospital. The cost of a one night stay in the hospital is equivalent to the cost of feeding someone for half a year. Thus our services are not only healthful, but also cost effective.
And so, we need to be asking the right questions. If a patient can’t afford food, are there services offered to provide access to food? Is the food healthy and nutritious for someone with a serious illness to aid in their recovery or in coping with their illness? If the person is too sick to shop or cook are there services like God’s Love offered to them? What about to their children? We can’t just offer food to people. We need to offer food that makes them better. We can’t just offer housing; we have to offer a variety of services that gives the client the best chance of staying out of the hospital and living their best life.
Along with our sister agencies in the Food Is Medicine Coalition, we work to ensure that our services will be available for our clients and those to come. For more information about God’s Love We Deliver, please visit us on our website or social media accounts. For more information about the Food is Medicine Coalition and how we hope to solve these serious issues please follow us on twitter.