Heart Association gives UK grant to spur ‘food as medicine’ effort

By Grace Sowards
University of Kentucky
The Food as Health Alliance at the University of Kentucky has received a grant from the American Heart Association. UK is among the first recipients of AHA’s Health Care by Food Initiative awards.
FAHA director Alison Gustafson is a faculty member in the University of Kentucky Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. She will use the $386,000 grant over the next year and a half to see how a user-centered design program can improve screening, referral enrollment and engagement in food-as-medicine programs for adults with food insecurity and high blood pressure or other diet-sensitive chronic diseases.

This grant also involves UK HealthCare and Appalachian Regional Healthcare, with key partnerships from Instacart, Kroger Health with Soda Health, Mom’s Meals and Food City.
“We are looking forward to working with our partners across the state to improve screening, referral and enrollment practices to improve patient outcomes,” said Gustafson, a professor in the Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition.  She has partnered with Instacart, Mom’s Meals and Food City on current pilot projects across Kentucky to help develop the infrastructure for patients receiving food-as-medicine programs.

The grant team is developing a referral hub for health-related social needs with key organizations in Kentucky. FAHA is bringing together diverse health-care, managed-care, non-profit and industry collaborators to facilitate screening, referral and enrollment to identify the most suitable and effective model(s) in the short term, while considering design for long-term sustainability.
FAHA seeks to bring together clinical and community research spanning across agriculture, food, health care and nutrition to address food insecurity and diet-related chronic disease. Researchers, community partners, food commodity producers, health care partners and students will explore innovative strategies to improve patient clinical outcomes and Kentuckians’ health.
“This award is an acknowledgment of the tremendous work the Food as Health Alliance has already been doing to address inequities related to food insecurity and chronic disease across Kentucky,” said Carolyn Lauckner, assistant professor in the Department of Behavioral Science at the UK College of Medicine and co-principal investigator on the grant with Gustafson.
“The grant demonstrates an investment in our efforts to use food as medicine to improve individuals’ health by targeting the link between food insecurity and cardiovascular disease,” Lauckner said. “I am thrilled to be working with this outstanding group of scholars and practitioners committed to using innovative, community-engaged research methods to improve the health of all Kentuckians.”
For more information on FAHA, visit https://foodashealthalliance.ca.uky.edu. For more information about the American Heart Association’s Health Care by Food Initiative, visit https://healthcarexfood.org.

Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

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