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NACDS hails Milken Institute's Food is Medicine report

The newly released action plan comes as part of NACDS’ joint commitment with the Milken Institute to the White House Challenge to End Hunger and Build Healthy Communities.
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The National Association of Chain Drug Stores is calling attention to a landmark resource released by the Milken Institute.

The Milken Institute’s new action plan—“Catalyzing Action for Pharmacist-Provided Food Is Medicine Care”—establishes the vital role of the pharmacy in advancing Food Is Medicine, and the actionable steps that public and private stakeholders should take to leverage pharmacist-provided Food Is Medicine care to effectively address nutrition, hunger and health. NACDS supported the Milken Institute’s independent work on “Catalyzing Action for Pharmacist-Provided Food Is Medicine Care.” 

Notably, the action plan underscores the fact that pharmacies are cornerstones of local health care. Not only are they uniquely positioned to provide access to vaccines, screenings, treatments and chronic disease management services—but also to deliver Food Is Medicine interventions and access to the most vulnerable Americans.

[Read more: NACDS to U.S. Senate: Pharmacies play vital role in delivering health, wellness solutions]

“Catalyzing Action for Pharmacist-Provided Food Is Medicine Care” comes as part of NACDS’ commitment to the White House Challenge to End Hunger and Build Healthy Communities (the Challenge), which the Association jointly submitted with the Milken Institute in March 2023 and which was subsequently announced in February 2024.

The Challenge was a nationwide call-to-action to stakeholders across the nation to build on the commitments made at the historic White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in September 2022—and to help advance President Biden’s goal to end hunger and reduce diet-related diseases by 2030.

“Often when we talk about Food Is Medicine, the focus is on provision and coverage of the food, which is essential, but to successfully scale FIM across the nation we also need the wraparound care to support it: Food Is Medicine care,” said Holly Freishtat, senior director of Feeding Change at the Milken Institute. “This report lifts up the opportunity to activate pharmacies as a key provider of Food Is Medicine care to make these interventions more effective and easier to access for individuals with diet-related chronic diseases who could benefit from them. Pharmacies are frequently accessed, trusted, equitable, and highly qualified and primed for accountable care, making them well-positioned to support FIM care—but they need the right payment, workflow, and technology infrastructure to realize it. This Action Plan outlines the steps to do that.”

[Read more: NACDS report highlights role local pharmacies, pharmacists play in patient-centered services]

“At the September 2022 White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, NACDS made a promise to the White House and to all Americans,” said Steve Anderson, president and CEO of NACDS. “We committed to certain proposals, including the collaborative role we envisioned for pharmacies in helping to scale Food Is Medicine programs to enhance access and uptake, especially for communities with high rates of diet-related disease and food insecurity. We have kept that promise.”

Anderson continued, “NACDS is thrilled to introduce this first-of-its-kind resource, an Action Plan whose concept was first announced at the White House Challenge event in February 2024. This unprecedented collaboration with the Milken Institute provides a blueprint on how pharmacies can effectively integrate Food Is Medicine within the broader healthcare journey and within the places where patients have the best access. This is a mobilizing moment for Food is Medicine, and NACDS is proud to be a part of it.”

Specifically, the Action Plan identifies opportunities for pharmacies to participate in Food Is Medicine and positions pharmacists as key players in emphasizing the connection between Food Is Medicine interventions and whole-person care.

“As the role of pharmacies in the healthcare space transforms and as Food Is Medicine gains traction among patients, payers, and non-pharmacy healthcare providers, pharmacies can fill a much-needed gap in Food Is Medicine access,” the report notes.

The Action Plan offers 12 recommendations, each of which addresses key barriers in the Food Is Medicine landscape through actionable steps that pharmacies, healthcare payers, state and federal agencies, policymakers, and other key stakeholders can implement to improve Food Is Medicine-supportive reimbursement pathways, workflow processes and technology infrastructure.

Importantly, these three areas will be essential to bringing pharmacies into the Food Is Medicine landscape and moving forward the Food Is Medicine movement more broadly to expand access to Food Is Medicine for patients across diverse communities. 

  1. On Payment Policies: The recommendations center on making Food Is Medicine care a reimbursable service for pharmacists across payer types (Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial) …
  • RECOMMENDATION 1: Recognize pharmacists as eligible providers under Medicare Part B to establish reimbursement for clinical services. 
  • RECOMMENDATION 2: Include pharmacies as reimbursable service providers within state Medicaid Section 1115 demonstration waivers.
  • RECOMMENDATION 3: Incorporate Food Is Medicine interventions into Medication Therapy Management services in Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance.
  • RECOMMENDATION 4: Incorporate community health workers into pharmacy operations to improve patient healthcare access through existing reimbursement options.
  • RECOMMENDATION 5: Enhance partnerships between employer-sponsored health plans and pharmacies to include Food Is Medicine benefits.
  1. On Pharmacy Operations - Workflow: The recommendations discuss the need for seamless integration of Food Is Medicine into pharmacy workflow processes without burden on pharmacy teams …
  • RECOMMENDATION 6: Create a seamless and efficient process to identify Food Is Medicine-eligible patients so pharmacies can connect them to interventions, either externally or in-store. 
  • RECOMMENDATION 7: Utilize front-of-store capacities to serve as a one-stop-shop for Food Is Medicine interventions. 
  • RECOMMENDATION 8: Foster collaboration between pharmacists and dietitians as part of an interprofessional team to complement a patient's medications with additional lifestyle modifications.
  • RECOMMENDATION 9: Refer patients to external Food Is Medicine resources through social-needs aggregator platforms. 
  • 3. On Technology: The recommendations highlight the need for interoperable technology infrastructure to support nuanced Food Is Medicine data sharing throughout the healthcare ecosystem …
  • RECOMMENDATION 10: Improve data interoperability for pharmacists to document their services and exchange clinical information. 
  • RECOMMENDATION 11: Implement technology solutions to improve and streamline the patient care experience. 
  • RECOMMENDATION 12: Coordinate evaluation data throughout Food Is Medicine stakeholders to better track health outcomes and improve care coordination. 
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