PHILADELPHIA, PA, United States (KaiserHealth) – Feliciano Pagan stood at his front door when the MANNA food truck pulled up to his two-story brick row home.
Pagan, 48, greeted the driver with a smile as he carried in two large bags filled with frozen dinners and fresh fruit that would last a week. Among the goods were chicken fajitas with brown rice and zucchini; chicken dumplings, carrots and beets; and sweet-and-sour pork chops with turkey noodle soup.
These medically tailored meals – all with limited salt and carbohydrates – are designed to keep Pagan, who has congestive heart failure, out of the hospital. Health Partners Plans, the nonprofit company that runs the Medicaid health plan Pagan belongs to, is betting on it.
George said another key is nutritional counseling so members can learn to make better choices in the supermarket and prepare healthy meals themselves.
“We don’t have the resources to feed everyone forever,” he said.
There’s little research on how people’s health fares after they stop getting the medically tailored meals, said Seth Berkowitz, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina, who co-authored the Health Affairs study. While there’s little controversy that giving people nutritious meals is good for their health, more research is needed to determine who are the best candidates for these programs and how long they should last, he said.
Marina Rangel, 53, of Philadelphia, credited the meals she received in 2016 through Health Partners for getting her back on the road to health.
At the time, she weighed 400 pounds and could barely move around her home. After five months of receiving meals and counseling, she lost 45 pounds, which encouraged her doctors to give her a hip replacement. Today, her weight is down to 245, her diabetes is under control, and she works at home selling antiques on eBay.
“It’s been amazing, lifesaving for me to be in the program,” she said.
This story is part of a collaboration between WHYY’s The Pulse, The Philadelphia Inquirer and Kaiser Health News.
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