Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA) has partnered with Boston-based nonprofit About Fresh to launch a new program to help its underserved patients access fresh, healthy food in their local communities. Through the program, CHA will use About Fresh’s new Fresh Connect platform to support better nutrition for up to 500 patients covered by Tufts Health Together with CHA, a MassHealth Accountable Care Organization (ACO) program. Eligible CHA members may receive a prepaid Fresh Connect debit card with monthly resources for one year to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at approved vendors, including Stop & Shop, Fresh Truck mobile market sites and Daily Table with more than 20,000 retail locations joining the network by the end of 2022.
“Helping patients stay healthy is at the heart of our population health mission,’” said CHA’s Senior Director of ACO network development and performance, Wilfred McCalla. “While our doctors and nurses do incredible work every day, the traditional health model has limits in addressing the social determinants of health. Thankfully, with creative partnerships like Fresh Connect, we are able to extend our services to provide different forms of assistance to those in need. This will help our patients stay healthier in the community.”
According to recent research, individuals who have experienced food insecurity during the pandemic consume less fruits and vegetables than people who are food secure. This can lead to poorer health. Numerous studies have shown that less nutritious diets are associated with a variety of health issues, including increased risks of anemia, cognitive problems, aggression, anxiety, behavioral problems and oral health problems, as well as higher risks of being hospitalized.
“We’re thrilled to be partnering with the Cambridge Health Alliance to serve their patients,” said About Fresh Cofounder/CEO Joshua Trautwein. “CHA has had a longstanding commitment to addressing food insecurity as a social driver of health and we see this partnership as an important progression of that mission. Fresh Connect will make it easy for CHA providers to expand access to food for CHA patients and drive measurable impact on health outcomes and all of the other important benefits of food.”
The CHA-About Fresh pilot helps certain members of the CHA MassHealth ACO plan and their families that meet specific criteria using Flexible Services Program funds. The Flexible Services Program, which is part of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services’ MassHealth Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment Program, is not a covered service and is only available to a limited number of eligible members. The Flexible Services Program offers MassHealth ACOs time-limited funding to pilot evidence-based approaches that address a member’s health-related social needs with the goal of improving health outcomes and reducing the total cost of health care for the member.