Clinical Effort Shows that Sometimes Food is the Best Medicine

Originally posted by Contra Costa Health Services

Patients visiting our health centers are now being regularly screened for hunger when they come in for their medical appointments.

At intake, patients are given a form that asks if they have been unable to afford food or have been worried about running out of food. If patients mark “yes” to any of the food insecurity questions, they are given a referral to the Food Bank Contra Costa and Solano, which then helps those patients sign up for CalFresh (food stamps).

“We know that food insecurity is linked to poor health outcomes,” said Dr. Michelle Wong, head of our Integrative Health Program. “By rolling out universal food security screening at all clinics with an immediate referral to the Food Bank, we are showing our system recognizes food security as vital to patients’ health.”

The universal food-insecurity screenings are part of a broader “food as medicine” campaign at CCRMC & Health Centers to address other factors in people’s lives that impact health besides disease. In recent years, CCRMC/HC has begun incorporating wraparound services for food security and healthy eating – from free weekly assistance with CalFresh sign-ups to offering free produce in clinics to teaching patients how to cook and eat healthier on a budget through group medical visits.

After a successful pilot, the food-insecurity screenings – also known as “hunger vital signs” –started systemwide at all our health centers in December. Food Bank representatives are regularly onsite at various health centers and can often provide immediate assistance following medical visits.

For more information, contact Dr. Gabriela Sullivan at [email protected].