But often overlooked is the talent drawn to the region’s well-established and innovative nonprofit sector, which continually adapts to meet the growing needs of a city that sadly tops the charts in rates of chronic disease and poverty. As the CEO of MANNA, a community-based organization delivering medically tailored meals to people battling life-threatening illnesses, I witness the magic that happens when the healthcare sector and the nonprofit sector come together to meet the nutritional needs of our most vulnerable community members.
"When it comes to Philadelphia's outstanding healthcare and university ecosystem, one thing is clear: innovation happens here."- Sue Daugherty, CEO of Manna
The population of the people we serve faces tremendous barriers to accessing the specific diet they need to manage complex diseases, ranging from poor supermarket access to low culinary literacy to inadequate energy levels needed for cooking. Our clients not only need Philadelphia’s highly trained healthcare professionals to diagnose and treat their illnesses like cancer, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS, but they require specialized nutrition services alongside their medications and treatment plans that enable them to heal. At MANNA, our dedicated volunteers and talented staff prepare more than one million medically tailored meals per year to meet this need, all completely free of charge for our 3,300+ clients.
We use food as medicine to improve health, and our regional healthcare system is catching on; we’ve created one of a kind partnerships with local payers like Health Partners Plans, Aetna Better Health, Keystone First, and United Healthcare to improve health outcomes and reduce healthcare
utilization and costs by providing services for their members. These payers understand the value-add of our services, which quantified in healthcare cost savings in a published, peer-reviewed research study. When compared to a matched control group, MANNA clients’ average monthly healthcare costs were $13,000 less, the rate of hospitalization was 50% lower, and clients were 23% more likely to be released from the hospital to their homes, rather than a subacute care facility. Early outcomes from our health insurance partnerships mirror these findings, providing undeniable evidence that nutrition is a critical part of care when treating serious illnesses.
It excites me to see the progress made at the intersection of Philadelphia’s food and healthcare systems – organizations like the Food Trust and the Coalition Against Hunger have done tremendous work educating consumers, healthcare leaders, and policymakers about the connection between food and health. We have a long way to go until the nutritional needs of all individuals are met throughout all phases of health and illness, but there is no better mix of talent across industries than the mix here in Philadelphia, and I am honored to be a part of it.