'Food is Medicine' pilot program tests meal delivery service to help those with congestive heart failure

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Dr. Richard Seidman with L.A. Care Health Plan says while it's early in the study, the current results look promising. They're feeding people with congestive heart failure nutritious and properly portioned meals in the hopes of reducing costly hospital visits.

"Today we have about 30 L.A. Care members who have met the eligibility criteria for the study. Each of them will receive three months of medically tailored meals," said Seidman.

The doctor said one of the most difficult things to monitor with these types of patients is their compliance. Making sure they stick to the recommended diet and their access to healthy and affordable food.

"Patients with congestive heart failure have known relatively high rates of emergency room utilization, readmissions after discharge," Seidman said

Project Angel Food's executive director Richard Ayoub says the study's results could have a huge impact on their clients.

"One day in the hospital is about $5,000 and if we can keep them out of the hospital one day we're saving taxpayers thousands upon thousands of dollars. This program costs $60 a day," Ayoub said.

Ayoub said they work with dietitians to make sure these patients get exactly the nutrition they need, literally minimal salt or none at all. So they have to spice things up.

"We do apricot chicken and Moroccan chicken. We do different styles, and our chefs take a lot of pride in what they do," said Ayoub.

The plan, which is sponsored by the state of California, covers home delivery food service for 90 days. This helps people like Candice, an L.A. Care member, get back on the road to health.

"Hard part for me was I couldn't breathe. I couldn't lay down flat and breathe without feeling like I was like drowning," said Candice.

Not anymore. Candice says she's lost 65 pounds and no longer needs assisted oxygen or the drug Albuterol.

"No hospital. Because I only eat what they give me. It's working. It really works," Candice said.
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