Researchers at Tufts University have recently published research that suggests prescribing incentives for healthier diets through Medicare and Medicaid could substantially increase the quality of the nation’s overall health and be highly cost-effective. It might seem like a radical solution, but this idea could be the silver bullet that stops the growing rates of diabetes, heart disease, asthma, obesity, and cancer in the US, while at the same time saving huge amounts of money! Here at NetCost Market, this study really piqued our interest, so we thought we’d break down what the study highlighted and what a world where doctors prescribe fruits and vegetables would look like!
The US has one of the highest rates of lifestyle-related health problems in the world. A large proportion of these – including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease – are directly related to diet. 70% of all diseases in the US are caused by lifestyle choices, and almost all of those are in the “chronic” category! Not only are lifestyle-driven health issues a public-health crisis, but they’re also an economic issue – it’s estimated the 86% of yearly healthcare costs in the US are related to chronic diseases. A large chunk of these are lifestyle related! The cost of prescribed medicine is often much higher than the cost of groceries like fruits and vegetables, suggesting that if the current system was replaced with this new, progressive idea, the cost savings could be massive!
The study, published in the medical journal – PLOS Medicine, used a “microsimulation model” that estimated the effect that paying for some or all of the cost of fruit and vegetables would have on a selected sample of candidates. Two scenarios were tested; one where 30% of the cost of buying fruits and vegetables was covered, and another where the whole cost was covered.
The simulation estimated that both scenarios would result in a substantial drop in health-related issues – including up to 620,000 deaths if all fruits and vegetables were paid for by Medicare or Medicaid. This would also reduce the number of “cardiovascular events (such as heart attacks) by a whopping 3.3 million, and cases of diabetes could drop by 120,000! All of this could save a huge $100 billion – effectively seeing health insurance bills drop due to the lower risk of lifestyle-related health problems.
Is this the silver bullet for America’s health issues?
So, is this the silver bullet for America’s health crisis and spiraling healthcare costs? Well, the answer is maybe. It’s not the first time this idea has been put forward – in 2013, New York tested a food prescription scheme at two public hospitals, but the scheme ended without much demand for its uptake. However, this new study is the first time scientific analysis has conclusively suggested that this solution would work over a long period of time and with a large number of people – previous tests hadn’t had enough time to show any major benefits.
Food medicine is really taking off, and as science uncovers more ways we can utilize healthy eating for our benefit, it may not be so long until we’re visiting our doctor for a prescription of fresh tomatoes and broccoli as opposed to insulin and statin pills. At NetCost Market, we’re advocates of healthy eating, which is why we source a huge range of healthy fruits and vegetables from the US and beyond. If you’d like to keep one step ahead of science and start increasing the number of fruits and vegetables in your diet now, head down to one of our stores and check out what we have to offer!