Human Services Secretary Highlights ‘Food as Medicine’ at Philadelphia Roundtable Focused on Improving Medicaid Supplements

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Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaDepartment of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Dr. Val Arkush join today Sue Doherty, RDN, LDN and CEO of MANNA and Pennsylvania’s seven Medicaid-managed physical health organizations to discuss the importance of food and nutrition in health care and to work to expand nutrition support in Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program.

“As we continue to strengthen our Medicaid program, doing more to help Pennsylvanians support these basic, essential needs that are the foundation of good health and vibrant, productive lives will also remain a focus.” I am grateful to MANNA and our managed care partners for the progress we have made in this space so far as we plan ways to further invest in this work.” said Secretary Arkush. “It’s not enough to treat the urgent need – we must also always maintain a focus on better prevention to help tackle health inequalities and support better lives for all people, regardless of their circumstances.”

A person’s ability to access and afford a healthy, nutrient-dense diet, and to have enough food each day, are closely related to their overall health and well-being. Poor nutrition can both cause and exacerbate chronic health risks and conditions, while inconsistent access to healthy foods or a lack of food can worsen health outcomes and lead to a greater need for urgent care and pharmaceutical interventions. Impacts on poor nutrition and health can increase health care costs and further health inequities among lower-income people, who are more likely to experience food insecurity and barriers to fresh, healthy produce and groceries.

Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program provides health coverage to more than 3.5 million people of all ages and is among the largest health care payers in the Commonwealth. DHS is committed to working with our managed care organizations and other partners like MANNA to promote interventions that help facilitate access to basic, essential needs like healthy products, meat and other groceries. This work helps people understand how their diet can improve or adversely affect their health and seeks to empower Medicaid recipients with nutrition education and direct nutrition assistance to help them take better care of themselves and manage or mitigate potential chronic health risks.

MANNA, which has been treating diet-related illnesses for more than 30 years, is an important partner in this effort, working with many managed care organizations to provide medically personalized meals as part of treatment plans for Medicaid recipients with certain conditions or diagnoses.

“Malnutrition is a common comorbidity of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. There is strong evidence that medically personalized meals address malnutrition and reduce hospitalizations and rehospitalizations, improve patient outcomes, and significantly reduce costs to payers. In fact, a national study suggests that if medical meals were given to all eligible recipients, there could be a reduction of 1.5 million hospitalizations and a net savings of $13.6 billion in one year. Dougherty said.

She added: “At issue is the fact that many people with severe illnesses who are prescribed a specific diet as part of their treatment cannot consistently access or afford basic nutritional services. However, with the support of Secretary Arkush and that of regional Medicaid insurers, we are working to resolve this by advancing both public policy and increasing the number of payers who recognize and cover food as medicine. Together, we can ensure these services become the standard of care for all who need them.”

For more information about DHS and the health and nutrition programs available to assist Pennsylvanians, visit

MEDIA CONTACT: Brandon Qualina – [email protected]

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