Seth A. Berkowitz, MD, is the principal investigator of a $3.25 million award grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) designed to broaden clinical studies of medically tailored meal delivery, and understand how best to address food insecurity in the context of diabetes management for people with HIV. Berkowitz leads the “food is medicine” research partnership that includes Community Servings and Massachusetts General Hospital.
A new five-year “R01” $3.25 million grant announced today is the second major grant awarded to the “food is medicine” research team, led by Seth Berkowitz, MD, MPH. In July 2020, the NIH granted the group $2.9 million to study the impact of medically tailored meal delivery programs on individuals with type 2 diabetes and food insecurity.
“We are eager to explore how the medically tailored meal program plus our evidence-based lifestyle intervention will lead to improvements in hemoglobin A1c, weight, and patient-reported outcomes such as food insecurity, quality of life and diabetes distress,” said Berkowitz, assistant professor in the division of general medicine. “This intervention has the potential to improve health and reduce the impact of food insecurity among people with HIV.”
David B. Waters, CEO of Community Servings says he looks forward to advancing a collective understanding of how the medically tailored meal model can improve the health and well-being of people living with HIV.
“This new grant goes to the very root of our 30-year mission, as our organization and others nationwide began by making and delivering nourishing meals to help chronically ill neighbors in need during the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1990s,” Waters said.
The grant will support a randomized clinical trial involving 200 individuals with HIV and type 2 diabetes mellitus in Massachusetts, referred to Community Servings for meals that are medically tailored by registered dietitian nutritionists. Type 2 diabetes mellitus is 1.5 times more common in people with HIV, putting them at greater risk for complications such as chronic kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, and early death.
Because food insecurity is two to three times more common among people with HIV than the general public, this population faces increased medical complications and higher costs of care. In the clinical trial, a diverse group of adults will enroll in Community Servings’ medically tailored meal delivery program and receive an “intensive lifestyle intervention” designed to improve diabetes self-management and assist with weight loss. A control group will receive the meals along with standard nutrition education.
Linda Delahanty, a lifestyle intervention investigator and Director of Nutrition and Behavioral Research at the Diabetes Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, is participating in the research.
Berkowitz was the principal investigator for the study previously funded by the NIH. He previously led a pilot randomized clinical trial using data from Community Servings that found medically tailored meal delivery successfully improved diet quality and control of the disease among recipients with diabetes and food insecurity. Two other studies led by Berkowitz in partnership with Community Servings, one published in Health Affairs and the other in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that medically tailored meals were associated with improved health outcomes and lower health care use and cost.
About Community Servings
Founded in 1990, Community Servings’ mission is to actively engage the community to provide medically tailored, nutritious, scratch-made meals to chronically and critically ill individuals and their families. To help clients maintain their health and dignity, Community Servings provides culturally appropriate meals, nutrition education and counseling, and other community programs. With support from thousands of volunteers, the kitchen team prepares over 800,000 medically tailored meals home-delivered to 3,200 clients annually. For more information about programs and opportunities to volunteer or donate, please visit www.servings.org.