Health Plan Insights: How Recuro is Combating “Food Deserts” in Rural America
Diet-related chronic diseases cost the healthcare system up to $50B a year. In fact, the White House recently held a highly successful summit on nutrition, hunger and health (the first of its kind in more than 50 years). During the summit, leaders focused on the topic of food-as-medicine. Better known as “food deserts” – healthcare innovators like Recuro are proactively addressing issues such as food insecurity, the proliferation of diabetes, and an overall lack of access to quality care – including hospital closures across rural populations.
The Current Landscape
Our mission at Recuro Health is to make advanced healthcare accessible to all patients – especially the underserved. Poor nutrition is directly related to poor physical and mental health. Payers and health plans can make a huge difference in solving these “food deserts” by expanding accessible care delivery tools for better patient outcomes. Food deserts are not traditionally something that immediately comes to mind when thinking about the payer landscape – but the reality is nutrition is a HUGE underlying cause affecting rural populations and contributing to higher hospitalizations.
Food insecurity and chronic diseases caused by poor nutrition are some of the most prominent health issues plaguing the nation. A 2017 USDA report found that nearly 39.5M people now live in low-income and low-food access areas. Food-insecure individuals are more than twice as likely to report poor physical or mental health than those with no unmet social needs. They also frequent the emergency room more often and are twice as likely to report inpatient hospitalization. Offering virtual care solutions that provide population insights can not only decrease these costs for health plans but also offer patients more proactive ways to manage their health.
Simply put, when you have higher member engagement, you have better patient outcomes. Thankfully, Recuro can identify these care gaps early in the process. Through comprehensive health assessments, diagnostic testing, and at-home labs – we offer health plans data driven insights to better manage rural populations affected by chronic diseases, limited care access, and the social/physical effects related to food deserts.
Sadly, nutrition isn’t the only challenge driving increased physical and mental health demand – we’re also suffering from hospital shortages. In a recent Pew Research survey, nearly a quarter of rural Americans say that access to quality healthcare is a major challenge compared to those living in cities or suburban environments. Link: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/12/12/how-far-americans-live-from-the-closest-hospital-differs-by-community-type/. In fact, one in four rural Americans live more than 30 minutes from the nearest hospital. Meanwhile, according to a new study, 1 in 5 rural hospitals are at risk of closing – more than 50% of these are considered essential to their communities.
In summary, rural populations that live farther away from hospitals and quality grocers have limited access to care and are more suspectable to “food deserts” – causing poor nutrition, higher chronic diseases, and declining overall health. Innovative solutions targeting food deserts offer substantial benefits in improving members’ health and quality of life. Payers also gain economic advantages through reduced total cost-of-care and market differentiation. Thankfully, Recuro is making HUGE strides to combat these challenges through our transformative care solutions. Contact [email protected] today to learn more!