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Improving perinatal outcomes for mother and child through Fresh Rx: Nourishing Health Starts

Dan Ferris, associate director of education and training for SPI, along with co-authors, recently published, “Does a food insecurity intervention improve perinatal outcomes for mother and child? A randomized control study protocol of the Fresh Rx: Nourishing Healthy Starts program,” in the Journal of Public Health Research.

The study is the first to examine a holistic fresh food meal kit program, Fresh Rx, and the impact on maternal health and birth outcomes. The comprehensive intervention addresses household food insecurity for families during pregnancy in locations with high rates of adverse outcomes: preterm births, low birthweight, days in the NICU, and infant and maternal mortality.

Researchers partnered with the Participant Advisory Council of Fresh Rx, comprised of pregnant women participating in Fresh Rx, to enhance the program and research. The committee provides insight to the research team on topics such as structural racism, barriers to uptake of the program, and ideas for incorporating familiar meal options.

Notably, the Fresh Rx program is one of very few “food is medicine” interventions that use a randomized design to measure the impact of different strategies to improve nutrition outcomes, reduce inequities in health, and lower healthcare expenditures. The program is also uniquely connected to the healthcare system. Additionally, the program is based around an understanding of the Cycle of Food Insecurity and Chronic Disease model: chronic disease contributes to increased food insecurity and food insecurity can lead to increased chronic disease.

“A primary aim of the Fresh Rx program is to add useful insights for researchers, practitioners, and policymakers in addressing inequities in community health outcomes,” said Stephen Roll, associate director for research at SPI and principal investigator for the research. “There is an urgent need to make sense of the ways that health inequities become evident in the community and advance innovative ways to best support nutrition during pregnancy.”

Read more about this study in an article published in the Journal of Public Health Research.

Contributing authors include Dan Ferris, Stephen Roll, Jin Huang, Katherine Mathews, Trina Ragain, Katie Simpson, Jason Jabbari, Kourtney Gilbert, Tyler Frank, and Sydney Rothman.