About Food Is Medicine @ Tufts

Food is Medicine

Food is Medicine (FIM) programs integrate food-based nutritional interventions into healthcare to treat or prevent disease and advance health equity. These are health sector strategies that prescribe medically tailored meals, groceries, or produce to support disease management and optimal well-being, based on the presence of a specific health condition as well as social needs. FIM programs leverage RDN expertise and offer culturally appropriate, often digital nutrition and culinary education to patients.

Supportive FIM efforts include incorporation of food and nutrition security screening and clinical care and referral pathways into the electronic health record; medical nutrition education for doctors and other providers; and policy advances to support reimbursement and scaling.  FIM further leverages the major federal nutrition programs and population-level healthy food policies and programs.

FIM interventions hold great promise by emphasizing both nutrition security and health equity, while also aiding food insecurity, financial strain, and disease management.

Learn more about FIM in this fact sheet.

The Food is Medicine Institute at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University

The Food is Medicine Institute (FIMI) is a university-wide collaborative effort based at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, bringing together experts from across disciplines with other local and national collaborators to advance food is medicine research, training, patient care, and community and policy engagement. Tufts is the leading academic institution globally for advancing FIM, engaging in multiple large FIM interventional trials in collaboration with health care systems, extensive policy and comparative effectiveness analysis, and more. The first-of-its-kind Institute serves as a catalyst to drive change, improve health, reduce health disparities, and create a more equitable and resilient health care system that recognizes the power of nourishing food.

Vision

FIMI envisions a world where consumption of nutritious food is recognized as a fundamental component of health and health care and where all people and communities have the knowledge, resources, and support to achieve optimal health and health equity through nourishing food

NETWORKING AND COLLABORATION

FIMI will look to administer a network of collaborative efforts to implement, evaluate, and integrate food-based nutritional interventions and education to promote health, well-being, and health equity through innovative research, training, patient care, policy development, and community engagement. This collaboration will serve as a local and national catalyst to drive change, improve health, reduce health disparities, and create a more equitable and resilient healthcare system that recognizes the power of food as medicine. More information is forthcoming.

Areas of Focus

  • Interventions like medically tailored meals, medically tailored groceries, and produce prescriptions, in combination with nutrition and culinary education, integration of other nutrition security programs (e.g., SNAP, WIC, school meals, meals on wheels), and consideration of cultural relevance.
  • Integration of FIM into electronic health care records and care flow.
  • Interdisciplinary nutrition education and training for healthcare professionals, emphasizing FIM interventions and integrating cognitive learning theory, digital education, and relevance to diverse populations.
  • Development of appropriate FIM quality metrics and reimbursement pathways.
  • FIM policy analysis, evidence synthesis, and advocacy.
  • Community, private sector, and public health engagement around FIM programs and supportive policies and practices (e.g., education, economic mobility).

Activities

Research and Innovation
  • Conduct cutting-edge, community engaged research on the impact of FIM on patients, communities, health systems, and employers, through a health equity lens.
  • Establish a national FIM Clinical Trial Network for rapid evaluation of different levels of FIM interventions with broadly representative diverse patient populations to generate high quality and generalizable clinical trials.
  • Establish a robust evaluation framework to assess the impact and effectiveness of FIM on health endpoints (e.g., glucose control, blood pressure, weight, maternal and child health outcomes, physical function, etc.), patient-centered outcomes (food security, nutrition security, quality of life, medication management, economic mobility, etc.), healthcare utilization, and health inequities.
  • Explore innovative strategies to integrate FIM into healthcare settings, such as hospitals, clinics, community health centers, and social service agencies including pilots such as 1115 waivers and Medicare managed care opportunities, as well as into employee wellness programs.
  • Perform interdisciplinary policy, legal, and economic research on government, civil society, and private sector approaches to advance FIM.
  • Foster collaboration between academia, healthcare providers, and the private sector to develop evidence-based interventions and interventions that leverage technology.
  • Continuously monitor and refine programs based on feedback, data analysis, and best practices to ensure ongoing quality improvement.
Education and Training
  • Patients: Develop and deliver innovative nutrition and culinary education to patients in various formats, in particular digital education, that support FIM interventions.
  • Health professionals: Design and promote effective nutrition and culinary educational programs for healthcare professionals (e.g., MD, CHW, DDS, PA, PT), highlighting the role of FIM in preventing and managing diseases. Establish partnerships with accreditation and educational institutions to integrate food and nutrition education into medical and allied health curricula, social service agencies.
  • Practitioners: Create online resources, toolkits, and training modules to disseminate best practices and evidence-based guidelines on incorporating FIM into healthcare and employee wellness; and support other FIM stakeholders through education, technical assistance, and accelerator programs.
  • Communities: Engage local communities through workshops, cooking classes, and outreach events to raise awareness about the importance of food in disease prevention and management.
  • Lead and influence the field through scientific publications, scientific conferences, op-eds, and policy briefs to advance effective integration of food, nutrition, and health.
Patient Care
  • Develop, evaluate, and scale screening tools and clinical practice to assess food and nutrition security in electronic health records, patient portals, and other online applications.
  • Develop, evaluate, and scale efficient referral and provision of FIM resources, within and outside healthcare (e.g., with government and community programs) based on identified needs.
  • Advance groundbreaking clinical research and implementation projects that provide FIM to diverse patient populations.
  • Collaborate with community partners to help navigate and support scaling challenges, such as healthcare regulatory and payment systems, in order to implement community-based FIM programs.
  • Work with large, scalable vendors to strengthen the nutritional quality, cultural relevance, and clinical effectiveness of their interventions.
  • Serve as a partner for other efforts focused on supportive pathways to advance nutrition security and health equity in patient care, such as through economic mobility, housing, transportation.
Community Engagement and Policy Development
  • Serve as a trusted convener of diverse stakeholders through regular FIM conferences and symposia.
  • Work with policymakers, government agencies, and healthcare payers to advocate for the testing, scaling, and integration of FIM into healthcare systems.
  • Promote community, state, federal, and institutional policies that incentivize and support healthcare systems and employers to adopt and integrate FIM interventions.
  • Engage with private and nonprofit FIM and other food sector stakeholders on key priorities and economic benefits around FIM programs.
  • Engage with a larger network of organizations focused on complementary initiatives, like healthier school meals, nutrition security in the federal nutrition programs, and specialty farming initiatives, to promote access, affordability, and convenience of nutritious food in underserved areas.
  • Support community organizations and advocacy groups aiming to address social determinants of health through complementary policy and other systems initiatives.

Who We Are

Learn more about the experts and researchers from the Food is Medicine Institute who are leading this work.