Making SNAP Healthier With Food Incentives and Disincentives

BOSTON (Oct. 2, 2018, 2:00 p.m. ET)—Poor eating is a major cause of illness, especially from cardiometabolic conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. These diseases generate large economic burdens for both government and private insurance programs. For individuals and their families, additional burdens come in the form of personal illness, out-of-pocket costs, reduced quality of life, and a shortened lifespan. These diet-related diseases and costs disproportionately affect low-income families in the United States.

A new Food-PRICE study from researchers at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health modeled the health effects and cost-effectiveness of three policy interventions to incentivize healthier eating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Tufts Researchers: Dariush Mozaffarian, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy from Tufts University on Vimeo.

SNAP is the foremost U.S. program providing $70 billion each year for low-wage working families, low-income seniors, and people with disabilities to purchase food. SNAP is reauthorized every five years as part of the omnibus Farm Bill, with the 2018 Farm Bill currently being crafted by Congress. SNAP currently includes relatively few incentives, disincentives, or restrictions to encourage healthier eating.

The study, published today in PLOS Medicine, estimated that $6.77 billion to $41.93 billion could be saved in healthcare costs over the model cohort’s lifetime by incorporating specific food incentives, restrictions, and/or disincentives to improve food choices in SNAP. At the same time, up to 940,000 cardiovascular events and 146,600 diabetes cases could be prevented.

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