WASHINGTON, DC. Recently, the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra announced a notice of funding opportunity for a new Produce Prescription Prescription PIlot Program at the Indian Health Service (IHS) via press release on April 26th. The notice describes the innovative utilization of a cooperative agreement model in order for the IHS to provide technical assistance and facilitate collaborative learning as the $2.5 million demonstration is implemented.
Produce Prescriptions (PRx) have been utilized within a variety of IHS settings previously, however this initiative marks the first time the agency has invested in program implementation as well as facilitation of implementation within the agency. A PRx is a medical treatment or preventative service for eligible patients due to diet-related health risks or conditions, food insecurity, or other documented challenges in access to nutritious foods, and are referred by a healthcare provider or health insurance plan. These prescriptions are fulfilled through food retail and enable patients to access healthy produce* with no added fats, sugars, or salt, at low or no cost to the patient. When appropriately dosed, PRx are designed to improve healthcare outcomes, optimize medical spending, and increase patient engagement and satisfaction (NPPC, 2021).
Members of NPPC’s leadership offered the following remarks of support for this special announcement.
“The IHS Produce Prescription Pilot Program is an important and positive step to help improve the health of tribal people. This program will allow tribes to go back to their own traditional teaching of Food as Medicine. Prescribing fresh fruit, vegetables and traditional foods begins the healing process and will increase the availability of healthier foods on tribal lands. My hope is that this pilot program will lead to a permanent program headed by tribes, creating a healthier system for our future generations.” said Carmen George, MEQ Manager at COPE and member of the NPPC Steering Committee.
Michel Nischan, Wholesome Wave’s Co-Founder and Chairman and Co-Founder of the NPPC said “We are grateful for the hard work and leadership of Congress, the Biden-Harris Administration, and the Indian Health Service in making the PRx demonstration a reality! With all the challenges we face in addressing the growing burden of diet related disease disproportionately born by American Indian and Alaska Native people as well as the continually challenging healthcare environment across the Nation and in especially in the chronically underfunded IHS, it’s heartening to know that true leadership can prevail on behalf of all of our communities – especially those that are most vulnerable to nutrition insecurity. Wholesome Wave and the NPPC are grateful for this important initiative at IHS and stand by to support with our collective experience in effective implementation and management of PRx.”
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (ME-01) added, “The Indian Health Service Produce Prescription Pilot Program will ensure access to nutritious fruits, vegetables, and traditional foods, and I’m proud that funds I helped secure are moving the program forward. I look forward to continuing to emphasize the important role that Food is Medicine interventions play in addressing hunger, nutrition, and health, and advancing strategies to integrate them across the federal government.”
The National Produce Prescription Collaborative (NPPC) is a community of healthcare providers and payers, food retailers and distributors, researchers, community-based-organization practitioners, patient advocates, think tanks, and other supportive organizations who are unified in the effort to advance federal and state policy change that leverages Produce Prescriptions as prevention & intervention for diet-related disease and further embeds this effective model into healthcare and food retail systems. Collaboration with this unique community is open to all organizations that are equity-centered, health-forward, and mission-aligned. Learn more at www.nppc.health.