American Diabetes Assn. partners with Elevance Health Foundation to improve health equity with the enhanced ‘What Can I Eat?’ program; program designed to address social determinants of health that contribute to type 2 diabetes

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ARLINGTON, Virginia , March 29, 2023 (press release) –

Press release

Today, the American Diabetes Association® (ADA) announced a partnership with Elevance Health Foundation to improve health equity through the free-of-charge, enhanced What Can I Eat? (WCIE?) program, designed to address the social determinants of health that contribute to type 2 diabetes. Supported by the Elevance Health Foundation, this collaboration will deliver accessible nutrition education, free nutritious foods, and resources to underserved communities with type 2 diabetes in Indiana, New York, Ohio, and Virginia.

Since 2016, the WCIE? program has focused on delivering nutrition education and resources for adults living with type 2 diabetes. The WCIE? program includes the latest evidence-based nutrition guidelines and provides information about local community resources. Through support from the Elevance Health Foundation, the enhanced WCIE? program will be available in-person and virtually. The ability to complete the program remotely not only accommodates COVID-19 safety concerns, but also makes the program more accessible. The ADA is currently recruiting local community-based organizations in Indiana, New York, Ohio, and Virginia to facilitate the in-person program.

“The partnership between the American Diabetes Association and Elevance Health Foundation represents a unique program that addresses the health disparity that leads to the disproportionate impact of type 2 diabetes on underserved communities,” said Charles Henderson, CEO of the ADA. “Usually, the cheapest and most readily available, yet less nutritious foods make it hard to manage diabetes and increases the risk of complications. By providing free nutritious foods and supporting sustainable behavioral changes, What Can I Eat? addresses some of the core issues that the diabetes community faces in their day to day lives.”

Food and nutrition play a vital role in living a long and healthy life with diabetes. The inability to afford or access healthy foods has serious implications. Less nutritious food choices could lead to poorly managed blood glucose (blood sugar) that puts individuals at higher risk for complications, such as heart disease, chronic kidney disease, blindness, and stroke. People with diagnosed diabetes incur average medical expenditures of $16,752 per year, of which about $9,600 is attributed to diabetes.

“Type 2 diabetes impacts more than 30 million people in the United States, disproportionately impacting Black and Hispanic populations that historically have less access to nutritious foods and have a greater prevalence of diet-related chronic diseases,” said Shantanu Agrawal, MD, chief health officer of Elevance Health. “By supporting programs like What Can I Eat?, we are helping advance health equity by providing those with type 2 diabetes the tools they need to have access to healthier foods.” 

Through the WCIE? program, participants will receive facilitated support and healthy incentives, including access to educational modules, resources, and free nutritious food throughout the nine-week program. The goals of the enhanced WCIE? program include: 

  •     Increasing participants’ confidence in changing their diet and making healthy choices 
  •     Increasing engagement in healthy food purchasing, preparation, and consumption
  •     Raising awareness of local food resources and support in navigating the local food system

The successful delivery of the program is made possible through a partnership between the ADA and Bento, a digital health startup organization. Bento supports the WCIE? program with technical design and implementation, including engaging with community-based organizations and program facilitators through Bento’s “food as medicine” text message platform to engage program participants throughout the nine-week program. 

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