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How Patient Education and Patient Engagement Combats Food Insecurity

Food insecurity, defined as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life, is a severe concern in the United States. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 10.5% of U.S. households were food insecure at some point in 2020. This equates to 13.8 million households or 38.3 million people, including 14.8 million children.

Social media can combat food insecurity

Food insecurity has significant consequences for health and well-being. Food-insecure individuals are more likely to experience chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, and mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression. They are also more likely to miss work or school due to illness and have lower educational attainment.

Patient education and patient engagement have been shown to be effective ways to reduce food insecurity. Patient education can help people understand the causes and consequences of food insecurity and how to access resources to help them get enough food. Patient engagement can help people feel more empowered to make healthy choices and take control of their health.

The role of the pediatric medical  home in fighting food insecurity

Pediatricians are in a unique position to help with food insecurity because they regularly see children and families who are struggling to make ends meet. In addition to screening for food insecurity at every well-child visit, pediatricians can leverage digital communication channels, like social media, to support patients between office visits by:

  • Providing referrals to local food pantries and other resources. Nonprofits and government services are critical for reducing food insecurity in your local community. Share local resources, events, and services your patients can take advantage of. 

  • Research and advise families on how to enroll in subsidy programs. Government-funded subsidy programs are a proven solution to food insecurity in the US. However, the enrollment process can vary widely region to region. Help families navigate this often cumbersome process by providing guidance and step-by-step instructions.

  • Encourage families to participate in nutrition counseling. Studies have shown children who receive nutrition counseling from their pediatricians were more likely to eat healthy foods and have a healthy weight.

  • Educate families about the importance of nutrition. Through proactive patient education both in-person and through digital channels beyond office encounters, pediatricians can reinforce the importance of nutrition. 

  • Support existing awareness campaigns. Given the ubiquity and accessibility of social media channels, public health professionals have successfully launched and executed educational campaigns on Facebook and Instagram. Hashtags such as #FoodInsecurityAwareness, #FoodRescue, #FoodforAll, and #NoKidHungry have proven effective for reaching tens of millions of people across the country. Having more trusted, credible messengers sharing resources tagged with these campaigns serves to further advance the missions of these organizations. 

Be a primary source for nutrition-related information and services, without the time commitment

Being aware of all the resources, services, programs, and events related to food insecurity in your community can feel impossible. Moreover, creating content to share on digital channels related to this topic adds an additional chunk of time that you likely do not have. Social Cascade’s Collective Impact Model is designed specifically for this issue. We partner with organizations in your community to source content developed specifically for your patients. That means you can share relevant information every day without lifting a finger. 

By working together, we can help to end food insecurity in the United States. Contact us to learn more about how Social Cascade can help you practice standing up against food insecurity in your community. 



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