Ryan M. Buchholz, MD: Importance of Screening for Food Insecurity

Dr. Buchholz discussed the idea of screening and intervening in patients with food insecurity, both in the clinical setting and in the community.

Obesogenic behaviors that lead to excess weight later in life may actually begin as early as pregnancy into the newborn period, particularly in food insecure households.

In the second part of an interview with HCPLive®, Ryan Buchholz, MD, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Unity Health Care, discussed feeding behaviors in children in these households experiencing food insecurity.

Buchholz recently presented a talk linking food insecurity to excess body mass at the 2021 American Academy of Pediatrics Virtual Meeting.

He pointed out a study that looked at household food insecurity in over 130 communities across the United States and its effect on excess weight.

"They saw that children in the food insecure households had a higher BMI Z score, which is their body mass index was higher, they had a larger waist circumference, and were more likely to be overweight," Buchholz said.

Additionally, Buchholz spoke about the AAP screen and intervene toolkit for pediatricians to address food insecurity in their patients.

The toolkit asked patients on a scale of "Often true" to "Never true" if within the last 12 months, they were worried food would run out before they had the money to buy more or if the food they bought didn't last and they didn't have money to buy more.

In terms of intervention, Buchholz stressed the importance of knowledge on food resources for patients, as well as school nutrition programs for children.

"I think food insecurity is a social determinants of health and it's not something I can prescribe an antibiotic and it's going to go away," Buchholz said. "And so I need to think as a clinician, outside of the box of writing a prescription and really thinking I need to refer my patient to a resource, perhaps outside of my clinic walls, or in some cases, community health centers"

In terms of the 3 things a clinician should remember for their practice, Buchholz emphasized screening for food insecurity, connecting patients to local resources, and the the idea of food as medicine.

"This is not something simple to address necessarily with a simple prescription unless that prescription is for healthy fruits and vegetables," he said.