The Complexity of Healthy Eating
October 9, 2018 | Blog Post
We all have to eat and whether we like it or not, what we eat plays a significant role in our health. However, some of us have the knowledge to ask ourselves “Is this healthy for me?” while others routinely eat low nutrient food.
The issue of poor eating, particularly in low income communities, was originally perceived to be caused by food deserts, the lack of adequate supply of nutritious foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables. In 2009, the United States Department of Agriculture suggested 23.5 million Americans from low-income neighborhoods live more than 1 mile from a supermarket (1).
However, the issue goes beyond high quality food supply. The Healthy Food financing initiative has awarded over 200 million dollars of federal financing to address “food deserts” between 2010-2018, but studies have shown that eating healthy is still a problem that disproportionately exists in low-income communities (2,3).
Why is this the case? Although we acknowledge that this is a complex issue, one simplistic explanation involves demand. Simply, many individuals in lower income communities have a preference for unhealthy food such as those from fast food establishments. In part, this is caused by a lack of understanding of how short term eating habits have a significant impact on long-term health.
Thus, the need exists to educate people on the value of healthy food and incentivize them to eat healthier. Various proposals to improve this include improving educational programs in schools and community centers and promoting healthy purchases with food assistance programs (4).
Players such as schools, local, state, & national governments, and community organizations all can have an impact on this problem. Healthcare leaders can play a role in this too by emphasizing that good nutrition is a critical issue in healthcare and explain the benefit that addressing this problem may potentially have on hospital and insurer’s costs and bottom lines. For example, healthier diets would likely decrease the 327 billion dollar annual diabetes price tag and the $147 billion in 2008 dollars used for obesity treatment (5, 6).
Ultimately, healthcare influencers should explore addressing this issue because good nutrition can create many winners.
Healthcare Analyst at CHI
i. Ver Ploeg M, Breneman V, Farrigan T, Hamrick K, Hopkins D, Kaufman P, et al. Access to affordable and nutritious food—measuring and understanding food deserts and their consequences: report to congress Washington, DC: Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, June 2009.
ii. Boone-Heinonen J, Gordon-Larsen P, Kiefe CI, Shikany JM, Lewis CE, Popkin BM. Fast Food Restaurants and Food StoresLongitudinal Associations With Diet in Young to Middle-aged Adults: The CARDIA Study. Arch Intern Med.2011;171(13):1162–1170. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.283
iv.Block, Jason P., and S. V. Subramanian. “Moving Beyond ‘Food Deserts’: Reorienting United States Policies to Reduce Disparities in Diet Quality.” PLoS Medicine12.12 (2015): e1001914. PMC. Web. 23 Sept. 2018.
vi.Finkelstein EA, Trogdon JG, Cohen JW, Dietz W. Annual medical spending attributable to obesity: payer- and service-specific estimates. Health Aff2009;28(5):w822-31.
Joseph Gaspero is the CEO and Co-Founder of CHI. He is a healthcare executive, strategist, and researcher. He co-founded CHI in 2009 to be an independent, objective, and interdisciplinary research and education institute for healthcare. Joseph leads CHI’s research and education initiatives focusing on including patient-driven healthcare, patient engagement, clinical trials, drug pricing, and other pressing healthcare issues. He sets and executes CHI’s strategy, devises marketing tactics, leads fundraising efforts, and manages CHI’s Management team. Joseph is passionate and committed to making healthcare and our world a better place. His leadership stems from a wide array of experiences, including founding and operating several non-profit and for-profit organizations, serving in the U.S. Air Force in support of 2 foreign wars, and deriving expertise from time spent in industries such as healthcare, financial services, and marketing. Joseph’s skills include strategy, management, entrepreneurship, healthcare, clinical trials, diversity & inclusion, life sciences, research, marketing, and finance. He has lived in six countries, traveled to over 30 more, and speaks 3 languages, all which help him view business strategy through the prism of a global, interconnected 21st century. Joseph has a B.S. in Finance from the University of Illinois at Chicago. When he’s not immersed in his work at CHI, he spends his time snowboarding backcountry, skydiving, mountain biking, volunteering, engaging in MMA, and rock climbing.