The Benefits of SNAP

I came across this news story about a new research article that was in JAMA and I just had to share this information with you all. I don't like to get political on this blog and that is not my goal. I simply want to share this research with you and you can make whatever decision about it. I think that part of being a good American is understanding how Government agencies work and being informed.

So let's just jump in. There was a research study in JAMA that was published in 2017. The title of the study is Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Participation and Health Care Expenditures Among Low-Income Adults. This is one of the first studies that I have seen really looking at a large sample size of low income individuals and looking at their overall health. This retrospective cohort study of 4447 adults (whose income was below 200% of the federal poverty threshold) participated in a NHIS (National Health Interview Survey) in 2011. Out of these participants 1889 were SNAP participants and 2558 were not involved with the program. The study found that those who were involved with SNAP had lower estimated annual health care expenditures (a savings of $1409). This is significantly lower estimated expenditures compared with the non-SNAP participants. That is a HUGE amount of savings! For the 1889 participants that equates to $2,661,601 estimated health care expenditure savings. If you look at all the SNAP participants who are adults (40% of those on SNAP) that could create a huge potential savings. Lots of these SNAP participants are also on Medicaid. 

Long story short that means that this could be an avenue to help decrease health care costs. We know that more and more Americans are struggling with obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. With this increase in chronic diseases that leads to an increase in health care costs/dollars. To combat this diseases, it is most effective to change lifestyle habits - eat healthier and exercise more. Making those changes can have big impacts on overall health. That is why this study is so interesting. Looking at SNAP recipients and seeing that this government program is providing food dollars to Americans is helpful in supporting a healthier lifestyle. According to the SNAP program, there are 20.5 million households stretch their budgets to purchase food. That is a lot of people that could use help and support with affording food. With the proposed budget cuts there is a potential cut of $193 billion dollars over ten years = cut of 25%. That is a big decrease and could have a big impact on lots of Americans. (TIME had a great article - CLICK HERE to read it for more information). In that article, there was another statistic that stood out to me .... in 2013 when SNAP funding had been decreased there was a rise in hospital admissions for diabetics with hypoglycemia (low blood sugars) due to food insecurity. Paying for an ER bill is much more expensive compared with offering SNAP benefits. Just an interesting finding that I think it worth thinking about.

I think when we talk about decreasing money to SNAP we need to know what impact that has long term. We need to understand what this program does and how it benefits people. Then after looking at that information, if the budget still needs to be cut, then we need to figure out how we help and support the people that have been utilizing this program. 

I don't want this to be political or be an argument over the proposed budget cutting initiatives being put forth from the White House. I just wanted to highlight the fact that there was a study done looking at how a government program (SNAP) was working to help make their participants healthier and saving money in the long run. That is very exciting and honestly I wish there were more studies out there looking at SNAP and WIC because having that data and talking about it could help to show the importance of these programs.