Kaiser Permanente Helps Supermarket Bloom in Food Desert

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , April 30, 2014

Part of the integrated health system's strategy is to complement "clinical prevention work with environmental strategies that increase access to healthy, affordable food and safe physical activity," says the executive leading the effort.

Loel S. Solomon

Loel S. Solomon, PhD
Vice President for Community Health for Kaiser Permanente

The term "food desert" is not new. It's been around for a couple of decades and it succinctly describes patches in urban and rural settings where people don't have access to healthy foods.

In the past few years the term has gained usage in the United States as we come to recognize that access to healthy food is a critical component of population health management, which itself will also become a key metric for provider reimbursements.

Kaiser Permanente already supports a network of farmers markets outside many of its medical centers and clinics. So it's not surprising that executives from the giant California health system were in the crowd earlier this month to mark the grand opening of a new 40,000-square-foot, full service supermarket in a South Los Angeles neighborhood that is served by the integrated health system.

Loel S. Solomon, PhD, KP's vice president for community health, says providers can no longer improve population health without looking beyond their own walls.

"Good clinical prevention is necessary, but insufficient to help our members eat better, which is critical to addressing obesity and diabetes and all sorts of chronic diseases," Solomon says. "We know we have to make the healthy choice the easy choice and that means we have to address the lack of access to healthy food in too many of our communities. So, it's part of our strategy to complement our clinical prevention work with environmental strategies that increase access to healthy, affordable food and safe physical activity."

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