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Report Explores How Doctors Can Help Patients Fight Food Insecurity

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Report Explores How Doctors Can Help Patients Fight Food Insecurity
Report Explores How Doctors Can Help Patients Fight Food Insecurity GUEST: Amanda Schultz Brochu, CalFresh outreach director, San Diego Hunger Coalition

It's a fact that good nutrition is the central part of good health. And now finally, as food assistance program is launching a program to link healthcare with the effort to get food to the people who needed. The San Diego hunger coalition is introducing ways in which doctors can screen patients to find out if they are struggling to put food on the table and prefer them directly to the food assistance they need. Joining me is Amanda Schultz Brochu. She is the San Diego hunger: freight -- -- the CalFresh outreach director, San Diego Hunger Coalition. Welcome to the program. Thank you morning. We talk a lot about food insecurity on this program and the need for donations. Especially around this time of year. But I don't think we've addressed how it impacts health. Generally speaking, is that a relationship that's been overlooked? Absolutely. I think that's a great point. Food insecurity impacts people in numerous ways but probably one of the most direct ways is on our health. Research points towards impact of food insecurity beginning with Low birth weight two potential for Mound Hirschman in seniors. It impacts us throughout our lives. How does the San Diego hunger coalition to find hundred security quick It means for individuals not able to access enough healthy food to help a productive life. We estimate over 485,000 San Diegans struggle with getting enough healthy food during avian -- given year. How did they introduce this idea of a combined effort to San Diego doctors and healthcare workers? This work has definitely been a joint effort. We were really lucky to be approached by the University of California San Diego's school of medicine. They were interested in better understanding this topic in figuring out how their medical residents could become more involved. So we worked with them to develop a curriculum in the medical residents developed a program within family health centers -- federally qualified health centers to begin a pilot project to screen patients and develop a referral systems -- who need food assistance. How does the process work like We did a number of pilots in each one look different. One of the most a Cseh fast ball pilots we had was a family health centers. In city Heights. When a patient goes into their position, they have their initial intake with medical assistant. Wild or medical assistant is weighing and measuring them, they will ask them to screening questions. A will ask whether or not they were worried if their food would run out and it they would not have enough money to buy more? They will ask if the food they bought didn't last and if they didn't have enough money to get more? If a patient answers, yes, to either of these questions, they are identified as food insecure. And note will be put in there have electronic health record. From that point, the physician will follow-up with the patient and as the patient finishes their visit and works with their discharge case manager or patient navigator, at that paint -- point, the navigator will ask if they would like to access food resources. They will offer them different resources. They will ask if they are interested in applying for CalFresh. They will also give them a list of food pantries nearby for they can get more assistance. We spoke with Doctor Sonny Smith, the co-medical director of the student run the 20 project at UC San Diego which participated in the pilot program. Initially it was a very emotional conversation for them. People would often cry talking about if they have fruits or vegetables they would give it to the children because they are still growing and not want to take it for themselves. That now, as we are providing more and food and resources in their neighborhood, then it's a conversation about bash how do you take the next steps like That was Doctor Sonny Smith with -- I'm back with Amanda Schultz Brochu of the San Diego hunger coalition. Most people know doctors are in a time crunch trying to deal with patients in the shortest amount of time. So how is this new screening being greeted at clinics and doctors offices? We been pleasantly surprised in the amount of interest and enthusiasm in integrating the screening process into clinical settings. The pieces made this most successful is having tangible tools to provide to healthcare providers so that when they have those difficult conversations and sensitive conversations with patients come in identified this need, you have something they can provide to patients to be able to increase their food security. I think it's also been really empowering for doctors to recognize that food insecurity is about a part of an equation. At patient previously considered, noncompliant, for not meeting specific chronic -- requirements are chronic disease, now has the resources to be able to do that. What about the patient's? This is kind of a new thing for people to be asked in healthcare settings. How have they been responding to it? That's a great question and we're disturbing to do evaluation and dig deeper to some of these pilots. The anecdotal feedback we've received from patients is that they feel relief. They fail cloud their doctors are connecting the dots. I think a lot of the patients have struggled with not being able to comply with specific nutrition guidelines because they aren't able to purchase the healthy foods that are suggested by the providers. Or we've seen a lot of seniors who may not be able to purchase food to take their medication. Which is something I think you and I would normally consider. And so a lot of patients are really happy this is something that's being acknowledged by the providers. You talk about the pilot programs, what's next? What's next in this effort to actually get it from the stage of being a pilot to the mainstream -- the usual that happens in a doctors office? That's a great question. I think there's a lot of interest across San Diego County and in the state of California in identifying best practices. On 14 December we will be -- San Diego hunger coalition will be hosting it coalition of healthcare providers. We will have individuals from the pilots healthcare providers and food security experts talking about their experiences. We're also inviting to -- some of the funding community to take a more copperheads of his approach and see what it will take to scale these programs up. I have been speaking with Amanda Schultz Brochu on the with the San Diego hunger coalition. Thank you very much. Thank you so much morning. -- So much morning.

The San Diego Hunger Coalition released a report last month on how doctors can screen patients to find out if they’re struggling to put food on the table and connect them to food assistance programs.

For its research, the Hunger Coalition launched five pilot programs over the last two years in distinct health care settings throughout the county.

“The integration of food security screening questions into electronic health records has been identified as a best practice,” said Amanda Schultz Brochu, CalFresh outreach director at the Coalition.

“We found that by embedding those questions into the health record, it makes it really easy for doctors to integrate this conversation into the normal patient care visit. It destigmatizes the food insecurity conversation and it also allows for mass data collection so that we’re able to look across patient populations and really start to better understand how large of an impact this is having on individual health outcomes,” she added.

Schultz Brochu said providing on-site food resource assistance is also key to address food insecurity in patient populations.

The Hunger Coalition estimates more than 485,000 San Diego County residents don’t have enough food for an “active, healthy” life.

Dr. Sunny Smith, co-medical director of the UC San Diego Student Run Free Clinic Project, said they had never systematically addressed food insecurity before and through the new screening process they found out most of their patients were food insecure.

"In the hierarchy of human need its really this is one of the most basic human needs and we have not been addressing it routinely in health care I think we've been really missing the boat," she said.

Participating health care providers are also offering on-site CalFresh same-day enrollment programs.

Schultz Brochu discusses the impacts of food insecurity on health Wednesday on Midday Edition.