MANNA’s Ann Hoskins-Brown Believes that Food is Medicine
Ann Hoskins-Brown has a story to tell about the importance of proper nutrition for chronically and critically ill patients, and she works tirelessly to make sure the right people hear it. The Director of Policy & Institutional Affairs for MANNA (The Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance) has a long history and a deep connection with the organization she now calls home.
Founded in 1990 by a group of seven church members in the basement of the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, MANNA spent the first years of its existence providing comfort, care, and nutrition to people dying of AIDS in Philadelphia. In 2006, MANNA expanded its outreach to people with more than 70 critical illnesses, like cancer, renal and cardiac disease, and diabetes. Two years later, MANNA moved from providing supplemental meals to its clients to the Complete Nutrition Model, where clients receive three medically tailored meals a day, seven days a week, complemented by nutrition counseling and other resources. Hoskins-Brown stated that the shift was necessary if they really believed that “food is medicine” -- the motivating factor behind the MANNA’s services. The organization realized that MANNA’s intervention could only be successful if it was providing all of its clients’ meals instead of only some of them; the client would no longer have to supplement the MANNA meals on their own with potentially unhealthy options.
Today, MANNA has grown into a well-known and respected organization in the Philadelphia philanthropic community with evidence-based programs and cutting-edge research that is affecting change at the state and national level. The organization relies on the services of 6,700 volunteers and 42 staff members to deliver on its mission, serving approximately 1,300 clients at any given time. MANNA has provided more than 15 million meals and helped more than 28,000 clients in the past 29 years. According to Hoskins-Brown, the growth has been a gradual evolution.
Asked why she does it, Hoskins-Brown explains that she first became acquainted with the organization during the height of the AIDS crisis as a volunteer. During her time at MANNA she discovered that her dear friend, who had died of AIDS, was a MANNA client. He did not want his friends and family to see him as his condition deteriorated, and it was MANNA who saved him from isolation in his final days. The organization provided judgement-free compassion and companionship for him. Hoskins-Brown was hooked from that moment on. It was a mission she could truly get behind, and her passion for the organization and its impact continues to be strong more than 25 years later.
She moved from volunteer to part-time staffer making calls for the organization’s nutrition department, and eventually to a position as MANNA’s first full-time grant writer in 2006. As the Grant Development & Research Manager she wore several hats and had a lot of different interests, including program development and research. It was becoming clear that the organization’s services were making a positive difference in the lives of its clients and helping them to save on healthcare costs, but the organization needed data to truly measure its impact.
Hoskins-Brown was a big proponent of research to support the model’s success, and played an integral role in the commission of a study with the OMG Center for Collaborative Learning (now known as Equal Measure). The results of the study were published in 2013, driving the organization’s strategic trajectory for the next several years.
The study not only confirmed MANNA’s positive outcomes for its patients but proved that nutritional intervention works and can make a huge social impact on care for chronically and critically ill patients. According to the CDC, 86 percent of healthcare spending in our country can be attributed to individuals with chronic health conditions. MANNA’s 21-weekly, medically tailored, home-delivered meals and nutrition counseling addresses and supports this specific group of people, and they were getting healthier and spending less on healthcare as a result. When compared to a control group, MANNA’s test group saw an average monthly healthcare cost savings of $13,000, hospitalization rates were 50 percent lower, in-patient stays were 37 percent shorter, and they were 20 percent more likely to be released from hospital to home, rather than to costly long-term care.
Hoskins-Brown actually left MANNA for a short time while the study was being conducted and published to pursue program development with St. Christopher’s Foundation for Children, a small private foundation. She returned in 2014 to join MANNA CEO Sue Daugherty to help lead the charge on policy change efforts based on the study results. MANNA quickly realized that these numbers could motivate funders, particularly health insurance companies who would see a direct benefit from healthier members living with chronic illnesses.
At a National Nutrition Month event in 2014, Hoskins-Brown re-connected with the President and CEO of Health Partners Plans (HPP), Bill George. HPP is a 284,000-member nonprofit health insurance company based in Philadelphia. HPP soon became the first health insurance company to reimburse MANNA for providing services to its health insurance customers, starting in 2015. MANNA has provided more than 665,000 meals to more than 2,000 HPP members suffering from various illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, malnutrition, and kidney failure. As a result, HPP is seeing a decrease in use and costs for inpatient admissions, primary care physicians, specialists, and emergency room visits. This successful partnership has provided a strong model for continued collaboration with insurance companies and health systems.
MANNA and its partners are poised to make a significant impact on a healthcare system that is in desperate need of an overhaul. Ann Hoskins-Brown’s passion, tenacity, and collaborative approach will undoubtedly play a huge role in the organization’s success.
1 “FIMC National Policy Briefing Sheet”, accessed at http://www.fimcoalition.org/policy/.
2 “The MANNA Model”, accessed at www.mannapa.org/MANNA-Expansion-Brief.pdf
3 “Food as Medicine Model, a Framework for Improving Member Health Outcomes and Lowering Health Costs”, accessed at www.healthpartnersplans.com/about-us/newsroom/news-releases/2018/
4 “Health Partners Plans President and CEO William S. George To Retire; Executive Vice President Denise Croce Named President and CEO”, accessed at insurancenewsnet.com/oarticle/