WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, January 31, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) hosted its first ever Food is Medicine Summit. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) joined policymakers, advocates, researchers, and stakeholders at the event to discuss the importance of the concept — and the ways in which pharmacies, other healthcare providers, and stakeholders can work together to scale food is medicine initiatives.
Of note, NACDS President and CEO Steven C. Anderson participated in a collaborative panel titled, “Integrating Food Is Medicine into Cross-Sector Systems to Advance Health.”
During the panel discussion, Anderson detailed the unique and powerful reach of pharmacies, including the industry’s integral role in delivering care to Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said, “Pharmacies gave tens of thousands of COVID tests for the American people … and more than 300 million COVID shots in a pharmacy setting. Estimates suggest we saved one million lives and that we saved the country $450 billion in healthcare costs. This illustrates how we can scale what we are doing with food is medicine through our member company stores.”
Anderson continued, saying, “After COVID, our Board decided what would be the next big thing to tackle to address public health on behalf of the American people. We went after food is medicine – and we listened to Americans. According to a Morning Consult poll commissioned by NACDS, 85% of adults in the U.S. say pharmacists are easy to access; 76% support pharmacists helping patients to understand their nutritional choices; and 73% support pharmacists helping patients prevent chronic disease such as heart disease and diabetes.”
Anderson went on to describe the Association’s priority focus on health and wellness innovation:
“At the September 2022 White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, we committed to certain proposals, and the White House Conference played a really major role in amplifying what pharmacies can do with food is medicine moving forward. A year later, on September 28, 2023, NACDS developed an unprecedented partnership with leading health organizations called Nourish My Health, which highlights the connection between food and health.
“… At the same time, we have been working with the Milken Institute on unprecedented work in how pharmacies can play a huge role in food is medicine, focusing on pharmacy-based food prescription programs.”
Anderson concluded by highlighting the importance of sustainability and payment for pharmacy-based services in order to meaningfully tackle these complex health challenges across diverse communities – including the critical need to enact federal provider status legislation, the Equitable Community Access to Pharmacist Services Act (H.R. 1770/S. 2477), and to include community pharmacies in innovative healthcare models.
Watch the full Food is Medicine Summit here. Tune in at the 7:19:00 mark to view the panel discussion with NACDS President and CEO Steven C. Anderson.