We talk a lot these days about the social determinants of health – those things other than genetics, personal choices, and health care that affect how healthy each of us will be. In discussions I’ve had recently, it’s striking how often food insecurity is mentioned as a top challenge – especially given Maryland’s high per capita income. For instance:
- Fifty-eight percent of patients screened for a community health program run by one of our Baltimore city hospitals faced food insecurity.
- The chief health officer of Howard County recently described food access as their greatest challenge – more so even than housing.
It’s clear that if Marylanders cannot access nutritious, fresh food regularly, they will be less healthy – and require more care.
In a recent WYPR commentary, I shared with the public how your hospitals are working to solve Maryland’s food insecurity challenges. Hospitals not only offer healthy meal choices for inpatients. Some of you work with community food banks to connect people in need to sources of available food. Some of you sponsor community gardens and pop-up produce markets in places where there are no stores that sell fresh produce. And some teach cooking classes for people eager to learn how to prepare healthy meals.
As you strive for success under the Total Cost of Care Model, these initiatives are vital.
At MHA we’re seeking to understand what public policy is needed to bolster your efforts. We’re also in pursuit of state and local agencies and community partners to help you truly prevent or lessen the effects of chronic conditions and help all Marylanders to be healthy.