Anyone living with diabetes will tell you that eating becomes much more complicated when blood sugar control becomes a 24/7 job — with no days off. No matter how small, every food choice suddenly becomes a careful balancing act, as multiple factors need to be considered such as the latest A1C test results, carb intake throughout the day and any other doctor instructions.
This presents a challenge for many people with diabetes, especially those who may not have reliable access to diabetes-friendly food due to social determinants of health such as socioeconomic status, location, or knowledge of which foods are and aren’t diabetes-friendly.
To address issues like these, many health plans have established home-delivered meals benefits through which members receive several weeks or months of meals that are specifically tailored to dietary guidelines for diabetes. The idea is that diabetes-friendly meals help members keep their blood sugar levels in check, thus reducing the likelihood of a serious medical event requiring complex treatment or hospital readmission.
Health Plan of Nevada, a UnitedHealthcare Company that services 224,648 Medicaid members, partnered with Mom’s Meals® on a pilot program to support diabetes management by better engaging its members and addressing food insecurity and other social determinants of health.
The program launched in September 2020, with 125 enrollees who had an average A1c of 10.86. The purpose of the initiative was to:
- Support members who have uncontrolled Type 2 diabetes with counseling and meals to reduce A1c levels and promote healthy eating
- Promote wellness, disease management program engagement and condition self-management
- Reduce utilization and cost
Participants demonstrated better blood sugar control and lower A1c levels — by an average of -1.9 points. The initiative also resulted in:
Humana takes aim at food insecurity and diabetes
In another program, Humana launched a year-long pilot in 2020 associated with their broader Bold Goal initiative that provided diabetes-friendly meals to hundreds of food-insecure members living with diabetes. Positive outcomes among participating members included:
- A 57% decrease in the number of days where physical health was NOT good
- A 95% decrease in the number of days where mental health was NOT good
- An 86% decrease in the number of respondents who experienced high food insecurity
- 86% of participants reported improvement to their quality of life
Taking care of baby and me
Other research points to additional clinical benefits of diabetes-friendly home-delivered meals. For example, Simply Healthcare, a Florida-based Managed Care Organization, launched a maternal health program named “Taking Care of Baby and Me” to help improve outcomes among women facing high-risk pregnancy due to a history of preterm labor, high blood pressure or diabetes (either gestational or pre-existing).
Members who participated in “Taking Care of Baby and Me” received 10 weeks of diabetes-friendly meals to help promote healthy blood sugar control, thus improving outcomes for both mother and child. After the program’s first year, Simply noticed significant changes to key metrics, including:
- Post-meal blood sugar levels (mg/dL) dropped from 160-180 to 99-140 (for reference, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends blood sugar levels stay under 120 mg/dL two hours after a meal).
- NICU admits dropped from 32% of deliveries to 12% of deliveries
- Premature births dropped from 27% of deliveries to 12% of deliveries
- Participants showed more engagement with their health plan and providers
To learn more about Simply’s “Taking Care of Baby and Me” results, check out their MHPA webinar from May 2021:
Just 90 days to make a difference
Tennessee-based CareMore Health used diabetes-friendly home-delivered meals to help promote the health of members living with uncontrolled diabetes. Participants exhibited average A1c levels over 7.5% and a body mass index (BMI) greater than 25 (for reference, a BMI of 25-29 indicates “overweight,” while a BMI of 30 or greater indicates “obese”).
After providing three diabetes-friendly meals per day over the course of 90 days, CareMore noticed the following changes among its members:
Although the healthcare community has extensively studied the link between nutrition and diabetes, research examining the connection between diabetes and home-delivered or medically tailored meal services is still relatively new.
A few studies of note:
- “For food-insecure individuals with diabetes, medically tailored meals improved dietary quality and food insecurity and reduced hypoglycemia.”
– Berkowitz, S.A., Delahanty, L.M., Terranova, J. et al. Medically Tailored Meal Delivery for Diabetes Patients with Food Insecurity: a Randomized Cross-over Trial. J GEN INTERN MED 34, 396–404 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-018-4716-z
- “This study provides evidence that intervention with the delivery of diabetic meals to patients with type 2 diabetes can be equally effective for achieving glycemic control as individual dietary counseling by a dietitian. Diabetic meal delivery can therefore be used successfully to provide diabetes education to outpatients.”
– Imai S, Kozai H, Matsuda M, et al. Intervention with the delivery of diabetic meals improves glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2008;42(1):59-63. https://doi.org/10.3164/jcbn.2008010
- “A nutritious diet is an indispensable aspect of diabetes treatment, and the lack of access to food engenders poor disease-state control, which correlates with increased health care utilization. Interventions aimed at improving access to food through medically tailored meals (MTMs) have demonstrated effectiveness in improving the health of food-insecure type 2 diabetic patients and reducing health care costs.”
– Rabaut L. J. (2019). Medically Tailored Meals as a Prescription for Treatment of Food-Insecure Type 2 Diabetics. Journal of patient-centered research and reviews, 6(2), 179–183. https://doi.org/10.17294/2330-0698.1693
Nutrition support for people with diabetes
Mom’s Meals offers a variety of meals tailored to specific chronic conditions, including diabetes. Find out more about diabetes including:
- Risk factors
- Tips and nutritional insights
- How home-delivered meals can help
- Diabetes-friendly meal options
If you are a health plan administrator, contact us today to find out how you can introduce a home-delivered meals benefit or pilot to your members living with diabetes.