From the Academy| Volume 121, ISSUE 10, P2101-2107, October 2021

Medical Nutrition Therapy for Adults in Health Resources & Services Administration-Funded Health Centers: A Call to Action

Published:December 16, 2020DOI:


      Vulnerable adult populations’ access to cost-effective medical nutrition therapy (MNT) for improving outcomes in chronic disease is poor or unquantifiable in most Health Resources & Services Association (HRSA)-funded health centers. Nearly 50% of the patients served at Federally Qualified Health Centers are enrolled in Medicaid; the lack of benefits and coverage for MNT is a barrier to care. Because the delivery of MNT provided by registered dietitian nutritionists is largely uncompensated, health centers are less likely to offer these evidence-based services and strengthen team-based care. The expected outcomes of MNT for adults with diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and other conditions align with the intent of several clinical quality measures of the Uniform Data System and quality improvement goals of multiple stakeholders. HRSA should designate MNT as an expanded service in primary care, require reporting of MNT and registered dietitian nutritionists in utilization and staffing data, and evaluate outcomes. Modification to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Prospective Payment System rules are needed to put patients over paperwork: HRSA health centers should be compensated for MNT provided on the same day as other qualifying visits. Facilitating the routine delivery of care by qualified providers will require coordinated action by multiple stakeholders. State Medicaid programs, Medicaid Managed Care Organizations, and other payers should expand benefits and coverage of MNT for chronic conditions, factor the cost of providing MNT into adequate and predictable payment streams and payment models, and consider these actions as part of an overall strategy for achieving value-based care.
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      N. Braunstein is an assistant professor and dietetic internship director, California State University Sacramento, Family and Consumer Sciences Department, Sacramento, CA.


      M. Shrum-Guerrero is a business analyst, White Salmon, WA.


      S. Liles is the director of nutrition services/WIC, Santa Barbara, CA.


      A. Germann is the clinical medical director, Salud Medical Clinic, Woodburn, OR.


      M. Kuppich is senior manager, Nutrition Services Integration, Nutrition Services Coverage, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Chicago, IL.


      H. Martin is the director, Legislative and Government Affairs, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Washington, DC.


      M. Schofield is the senior director, Governance and Nutrition Services Coverage, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Chicago IL.


      K. Yoder Latortue is the executive director, Miami Beach, FL.