Kaiser Permanente, Instacart Partner on ‘Food Is Medicine’ Study

Oct. 10, 2023
Study will target KP Medi-Cal members who have diet-related diseases, such as diabetes, chronic heart failure, and other conditions

Kaiser Permanente and Instacart are collaborating on a study of the impact of convenient access to nutritious food on health outcomes. The study will target Kaiser Permanente Northern California and Southern California Medi-Cal members who have diet-related diseases — such as diabetes, chronic heart failure, and other conditions.

This work is part of Kaiser Permanente’s efforts to address social drivers of health — such as secure housing, reliable transportation, and access to nutritious food. In 2022, the organization connected more than 170,000 of its members with community-based resources to meet their social needs, and is on track to serve 400,000 members in 2023.

Lack of proper nutrition is the number one driver of poor health outcomes in the U.S., contributing to higher rates of diet-related diseases. Barriers to food and nutrition access are not experienced equally, with low-income and rural communities, and historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups being most impacted by food and nutrition insecurity.

Kaiser Permanente will provide study participants with Instacart Health Fresh Funds, grocery stipends that can be used to purchase nutritious foods and pantry staples like fresh and frozen produce, legumes, plant-based oils, and spices, from a curated virtual storefront. Participants will have items delivered to their homes via Instacart. This is Kaiser Permanente’s latest addition to its Food Is Medicine portfolio, which includes building the evidence base for food-based interventions to treat and prevent diet-related disease. These efforts include support for medically tailored meals and produce prescriptions, targeted to meet specific nutrition needs.

The study will measure the effects of providing funds to purchase nutritious groceries for Medi-Cal patients with diet-related diseases. It will measure blood sugar levels as compared to the usual standard of care, reported food and nutrition security, diet-related disease quality of life, patient readiness to change, and hospitalization or emergency department visits. The results will provide further evidence on the impact of Food Is Medicine on health and the healthcare industry.

The expansion of 1115 Medicaid waivers in states across the U.S. provides an additional avenue to scale creative, effective health interventions such as Food Is Medicine programs, and this research will contribute to understanding innovative, scalable ways to improve diet-related health of the most vulnerable populations, the organization said.

“At Kaiser Permanente, we know that without access to nutritious food, individuals are less likely to stay healthy, increasing the likelihood of new and widening health disparities and health care costs,” said Anand Shah, M.D., vice president of social health at Kaiser Permanente, in a statement. “This innovative study is one of the many avenues that we’re pursuing to improve the health of our members and communities with diet-related diseases.”

In 2022, Kaiser Permanente joined national leaders in food and nutrition at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health to discuss strategies to address the nation’s food and diet-related challenges. Coinciding with the event, Kaiser Permanente announced a $50 million Food Is Medicine commitment to strengthen food and nutrition security programs while building evidence for the ways food can treat and prevent certain health conditions. At the same time, Instacart launched the company’s Health initiative to leverage its platform, partnerships, and products to increase nutrition security, enable nutritious choices, and scale food as medicine programs across the country.

“We’re dedicated to addressing nutrition insecurity, and by leveraging our technology, significant reach, and retail partnerships, we can help families across the country get nutritious foods delivered through Instacart,” said Sarah Mastrorocco, vice president and general manager of Instacart Health, in a statement. “We know access can lead to better health outcomes, and we’re proud to partner with Kaiser Permanente to demonstrate the positive impact that nutrition security and food as medicine can have on a patient’s overall health and well-being.”

“We know food and nutrition insecurity is felt by people in the communities we serve, as well as by millions of Americans nationwide,” said Pamela Schwartz, M.P.H., M.P.H., executive director of food security at Kaiser Permanente, in a statement. “Identifying best practices to address these inequities is essential to building healthier communities.”

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