Hospitals, health care systems, and clinics across the country are working to identify and address food insecurity in patients with chronic disease.

A growing number of health care systems have begun to address social factors that affect health, including food insecurity, in their patient populations. Health care reimbursement models have also shifted toward value-based reimbursement, further pushing health care toward upstream preventative care models. As health care providers take on a new role, launching innovative programs to address social factors, and develop clinical-community partnership models, there is a critical need to assess these health care driven food insecurity programs. Identifying best practices that are scalable and replicable enables government agencies and private foundations to invest their funding streams into proven strategies that will return proven outcomes. Establishing an evidence base of best practices also allows program practitioners who are often working with the limited resources of funding and staff time to invest in strategies that are proven effective.

Exploratory Evaluation

Toward these goals, TACKLING HUNGER has conducted the first phase of an exploratory evaluation to identify and assess promising practices in health care to address food insecurity and improve the health of patients with chronic disease. The exploratory evaluation used the Systematic Screening and Assessment (SSA)[1], a proven method used by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and others to expand practice-based evidence and conduct efficient, cost-effective, pre-evaluations of emerging innovations to identify promising practices and provide real time feedback to the field. The SSA method is used to identify a wide range of programs through a nomination solicitation process, allowing researchers to identify new and emerging programs, and engages an expert Consultative Group.

[1] Tackling Hunger followed the SSA methodology described in: Leviton, L.C., Kettel Khan, L., & Dawkins, N. (Eds.). (2010). The Systematic Screening and Assessment Method: Finding Innovations Worth Evaluating. New Directions in Evaluation, 125.

[2] We use the geographic regions as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service: http://www.fns.usda.gov/fns-regional-offices. 

Exploratory Evaluation of Food Insecurity Programs Initiated by Health Care Organizations: A Summary Report of Tackling Hunger Consultative Group Recommendations shares our findings from the first phase of the exploratory evaluation, describing the methods that we used and the recommendations of the Tackling Hunger Consultative Group (CG).  The comprised a panel of experts who reviewed a selected set of programs, determined which were appropriate for the next step of the exploratory evaluation, and made recommendations in general for the development and evaluation of this growing field. The findings and recommendations provided in this report will guide the next steps of the Tackling Hunger Project.

Evaluation Resources

In conducting the exploratory evaluation, we identified the need for evaluation support for health care initiated food insecurity programs. Many program implementers themselves expressed interest in evaluation resources, a need that was echoed in the CG recommendations. As a preliminary step, we have compiled useful evaluation resources on the Tools page of this website [link].

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