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Food Aid Helps Low-Income Older Diabetics Stay on Their Medicine

Those who are eligible but don't take part in federal nutrition program are more likely to forgo treatment

A mature diabetic woman lying on a couch suffering from a glucose crash, also known as a diabetes sugar crash.
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Participation in the federal government’s primary program to help feed poorer Americans reduces the number of older low-income adults who forgo diabetes medications, according to a new study.

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The research, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggests that efforts to encourage lower-income older adults to apply for benefits under the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) could lead to fewer households choosing between food and medicine.

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The study was conducted by researchers from IMPAQ International. They evaluated data collected from more than 1,300 older adults who took part in recent years in the National Health Interview Survey. Their analysis showed that SNAP recipients with diabetes were more than 30 percent less likely to go without their medication than diabetics who are eligible for SNAP but don’t take advantage of the program, formerly known as food stamps.

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Study authors say that higher participation in SNAP might have significant pluses for diabetic older adults with little discretionary income.

“For low-income older patients with diabetes, in particular, these findings offer a potential strategy for improving health outcomes and reducing hypoglycemia,” the authors wrote. In addition to getting more low-income older adults signed up, they also called for a look into whether higher SNAP benefits could lead to broader positive outcomes.

“Research could explore whether modest increases in SNAP benefit allocations could return health care cost savings through better management of chronic diseases,” they wrote, “especially for those lacking prescription drug coverage and those with high out-of-pocket health costs.”

 

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