Incentive for Eating Prescribed Healthier Foods can Result in Better Health

Healthy Food

More and more research is showing the importance and benefits of eating healthy foods to prevent major chronic diseases, cardiovascular events and diabetes. Chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes can lead to disability or death and no real way has been found to prevent these, other than by following a good nutritious and healthy diet and lifestyle. In spite of all the attempts by doctors and nutritionists to encourage people to adopt more healthy diets, including more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish and healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil, people tend to cling to their life-long eating habits. For this reason, researchers set out to see if people could be encouraged to eat healthier foods by financial incentives carried out by Medicare and Medicaid that would be delivered like a prescription.

In this vein, researchers carried out a study to see what kind of results could be achieved by encouraging people to eat healthy foods with  financial incentives leading to a 30% reduction in the price of the healthy foods. To do this they carried out simulations of how prescriptions for health foods at a 30% saving would affect health and mortality. Results of the study published March 19, 2019 in the PLOS journal showed that eating healthier foods could result in better health and could save enormous amounts of money by Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare and Medicaid cover one in three US citizens.

Two Intervention Incentives to Save 30% on Healthy Foods

Fruit and Vegetable Incentive (F&V)

The fruit and vegetable (F&V) incentive was estimated to be able to prevent 1.93 million cardiovascular events like heart attacks and strokes, gain 4.64 million quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) and save $39.7 billion in healthcare costs.

Healthy Food Incentive

The healthy food incentive that included fruits and vegetables plus whole grains, seeds, nuts, fish and healthy plant oils was estimated to be able to prevent 3.28 million cardiovascular events, 0.12 million cases of diabetes, gain 8.40 million quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) and save $100.2 billion in healthcare costs.

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)

The researchers examined data about the diets of people from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2009-2014. This covered American adults ages 35-80 over three cycles of NHANES (2009-2024) who were enrolled in Medicare and/or Medicaid. Dietary habits of these participants were taken from two 24-hour recalls. All the participants were simulated until age 100 or until they died, depending which one came first. Their risk factors were also included such as:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Systolic blood pressure
  • Total cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • High density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Current dietary practices
  • Risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as strokes or coronary heart disease (CHD)

Participants Tested at 5, 10 and 20 Years

Outcomes from 5, 10 and 20 years included:
Total cardiovascular disease events like heart attacks or strokes
Total number of cardiovascular disease deaths
Cases of diabetes
Non-fatal events like heart attack, stroke, angina, resuscitated cardiac arrest and occurrence of diabetes

New Produce Prescription Program

In the United States a new $25 million Produce Prescription Program was passed in the 2018 Farm Bill and this will provide funding for food incentive pilot projects for the next five years.

Choose a Rehab that Puts Emphasis on Nutrition

The Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York offers fine dining with a delicious and healthy cuisine by a chef under the supervision of a registered dietitian and food manager. See our blog post from May 30, 2018 to learn more about all the amenities like fine dining and recreation that Van Duyn has to offer.


This will be interesting to see how prescribing healthy food at a 30% discount will affect health and mortality in the United States.

Leave a Comment