In a groundbreaking move to explore the impact of food as medicine, US healthcare provider Kaiser Permanente has partnered with grocery delivery startup Instacart to launch a joint study. The research project aims to evaluate the effects of convenient access to nutritious food on the health of Medi-Cal members in northern and southern California suffering from diet-related diseases such as diabetes and chronic heart failure.
Participants in the study will receive Instacart Health Fresh Funds, which are grocery stipends intended for purchasing nutritious foods and pantry staples. These stipends can be used to obtain items such as fresh and frozen produce, plant-based oils, and spices through Kaiser Permanente’s curated Instacart Virtual Storefront.
The study will focus on several key metrics, including the impact of food on blood glucose levels, reported food and nutrition security, quality of life related to diet-related diseases, patient readiness to change, and the frequency of hospitalization or emergency department visits.
One of the unique aspects of this program is that it offers “dignity of choice” to participants. They can use the Fresh Funds to select the foods that work best for them, while enjoying access to various national, regional, and local retailers available on the Instacart platform, with deliveries to their doorsteps.
The study is part of Kaiser Permanente’s commitment to using food as medicine. In September 2022, the healthcare provider pledged $50 million to strengthen food and nutrition security programs and provide evidence of how food can prevent and treat health conditions. It involves screening millions of members for social health needs, expanding e-commerce solutions, and partnering with innovative businesses, including small startups and large-scale employers.
Instacart launched a “Health initiative” in 2022 to enhance nutrition security and support food as medicine programs across the US. The study results will provide additional evidence of the impact of such initiatives on people’s health and the healthcare sector.
This collaboration follows the recent report from Tufts University’s Food is Medicine Institute, which highlighted the potential of medically tailored meals and produce prescriptions to reduce diseases, improve quality of life, reduce hospitalizations, and save billions in healthcare costs in the US.
Both Kaiser Permanente and Instacart are dedicated to addressing nutrition insecurity and leveraging technology to support food as medicine programs, creating a healthier future for communities across the US. The results of this study are expected to contribute significantly to the understanding of food’s role in healthcare and nutrition.