Tufts hunger research included in White House commitments

Posted: 28 February 2024 | | No comments yet

Two Tufts-related initiatives have now been included in the White House’s latest round of public and private sector commitments to improve nutrition, end hunger and reduce diet related disease in the US.

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The White House has released its latest round of public and private sector commitments, including two Tufts-related initiatives to end hunger and reduce diet-related disease.

The Biden-Harris administration has set a target to end hunger, improve nutrition, and reduce diet-related disease in the US by 2030. Back in 2022, the administration hosted the White House Conference in September 2022, which encouraged stakeholders across the country to develop commitments to support the administration in achieving its five key pillars of national health.

Tufts University’s initial commitment involves creating the Food is Medicine Institute within the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. This institute will take the lead in fostering collaborative initiatives aimed at implementing, assessing, and integrating nutrition interventions and education based on food.

Its objective is to advance health, well-being, and health equity through innovative research, healthcare professional training, patient care, policy development, and community engagement.

The university-wide initiative that includes the School of Medicine and collaborates with Tufts Medicine is led by Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist, Distinguished Professor, and the Jean Mayer Professor of Nutrition at the Friedman School.

Existing funding totals $15 million, which is made up of $10 million in grants and gifts, along with a fresh injection of $5 million from the University. In addition, the Institute has said that it aims secure an additional $10 million in grants and gifts within the next five years. What’s more the University has committed to matching this amount with annual support equivalent to the payout of a $10 million endowment.

“Obesity, diabetes, and other chronic, diet-related conditions are a national emergency, driven by food and nutrition insecurity across the nation. The 2022 White House Conference – the first such national effort in more than 50 years – drew attention to these devastating challenges,” explained Mozaffarian, who previously served as dean of the Friedman School.

“Food is Medicine is one of the most exciting innovations in health care to leverage the critical role of nutrition in health. The Food is Medicine Institute will advance the evidence around this vision, serving as a catalyst to test and scale Food is Medicine interventions, mobilize public, private, and policy stakeholders, reduce health disparities, and create a more equitable and resilient health care system that recognizes the power of nourishing food,” continued Mozaffarian.

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Meanwhile the second commitment will be a collaboration between the Institute and Kaiser Permanente to develop and co-lead a new National Food is Medicine Network of Excellence, something that will bring together multiple stakeholders such as health care providers and payers, non-profits, the private sector, professional associations, and academic institutions to engage in collaborative efforts to advance Food is Medicine initiatives.

The Network is poised to spearhead nationwide collaborative efforts, integrating nutritional interventions into existing treatment models. Leveraging cutting-edge research and training, it aims to elevate patient care, enhance education, and boost rates of patient buy-in and participation. Network members will be able to exchange knowledge, bring together leaders in the realm of Food is Medicine, initiate collective projects, secure joint funding for various activities, and collaborate on education and advocacy.

Their collective goal is to support the testing, scaling, and integration of Food is Medicine into healthcare systems and communities.

“It’s exciting to bring together these two powerhouses in their fields – Tufts in research and education, and Kaiser Permanente in providing equitable, evidenced-based health care, community investments and research – to form a collaborative national alliance to advance the research and practice of Food is Medicine,” continued Mozaffarian.

“We recognize that solving for food and nutrition security goes beyond just giving people food. People’s attitudes toward food, the economic tradeoffs they must make, the stigma around food assistance, and social and culture dimensions all play an important role,” explained Pamela Schwartz, Executive Director for Community Health at Kaiser Permanente.

“The Network of Excellence will bring together public and private organizations to make a greater impact on reducing hunger, preventing, and treating diet-related disease, as well as improving health equity.”