Feeding Health or Disease? The 2012 Farm Bill

Obesity and other diet-related diseases are driving costly health care. Increasingly, we find ourselves with a Cadillac health care system and a Ding Dong food system. Both are plagued by exploding costs and unequal benefits to the American public.

The long, painful process of health reform is wrapping up while the debate about the next $300 billion, five-year Farm Bill is about to begin. What role can health professionals play in bringing about a healthier Farm Bill, and a healthier food system?

In this webinar, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas Medical Director and IATP Food and Society Fellow alumnus Eduardo Sanchez, MD, MPH, will explore the parallels between health reform and the Farm Bill. Anne Haddix, Ph.D., senior policy advisor with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will discuss the agency’s interest in the linkages between food systems and health, the burden of disease and potential policy strategies. Finally, David Wallinga, MD of The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy will reflect on the health community’s advocacy for the 2008 Farm Bill, and opportunities for healthy food and healthier farming in the new bill.

SLIDES:

Superbugs, Super Problems: Agricultural Antibiotics and Emerging Infections Webinar

The new scientific consensus is that routine, unnecessary use of antibiotics in livestock and poultry contributes significantly to a costly epidemic of antibiotic resistance. One result is the emergence of new infections with farm links, including Salmonella resistant to multiple drugs (including the critical cephalosporins), resistant E coli, and MRSA.  PDF of Slides    Additional Resources

Healthy Food Action welcomed three presenters who recently testified before Congress on this issue: University of Minnesota infectious disease and noted E coli expert, Dr. James Johnson, Maryn McKenna, author of SuperBug: The Fatal Menace of MRSA, and Dr. Gail Hansen of the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming, offering a veterinarian’s perspective on the need for new federal policy and why health professionals ought to weigh in.

Fletcher Allen Healthcare: Doing what it takes to bring arsenic-free chicken to patients

Meet Diane Imrie and Richard Jarmusz at Fletcher Allen Health Care, located in Burlington, Vermont. Diane, Richard and the food service team at Fletcher Allen buy and serve their patients and staff healthy chicken raised without the routine use of antibiotics or arsenic compounds.

Hospitals purchase and serve more chicken than any other protein source. Until recently most of this chicken was raised with a heavy reliance on the routine and unnecessary use of antibiotics and arsenic in poultry feeds. When Diane, director of nutritional services, became aware of widespread health concerns around these practices and the availability of alternatives, she and Richard, executive chef for Fletcher Allen, began looking in earnest for more sustainably produced chicken options. Now at least one third of the 56,000 pounds of chicken served annually at Fletcher Allen is produced without the use of antibiotics or arsenic compounds. “As staff for Vermont’s largest medical center and teaching hospital, we think it is important to be a model by serving food that is both nutritious and healthy in how it is produced,” said Ms. Imrie. Diane and Richard overcame numerous challenges of working in a hospital food service environment—cash strapped budgets, multiyear supplier contracts, and distributor agreements. Working with distributors and group purchasing organizations and armed with a list of alternative suppliers, Diane, Richard and Fletcher Allen changed not only the chicken they serve, but also how the hospital thinks about food and keeping people healthy.

Fletcher Allen is one of more than 250 hospitals across the country who have taken Health Care Without Harm’s Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge. The Pledge demonstrates a commitment to “first, do no harm” by treating food and its production and distribution as preventive medicine that protects the health of patients, staff, and communities.