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Proposed Cuts in U.S. Food and Health Aid Would Hurt Families

FRIDAY, March 13, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Families who lose benefits under proposed changes to the U.S. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would face increased challenges to their health and well-being, according to a new study.

The federal aid program provides health, nutrition and financial benefits to 40 million people.

But the U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed new rules that would reduce eligibility. It's estimated that one in 10 families now enrolled in SNAP may lose benefits.

"These proposed changes to SNAP raise concerns for adverse effects on health, nutrition, and ability to pay for health care," said lead author Dr. Alon Peltz. He's an instructor in the department of population medicine at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute in East Boston.

"We wanted to investigate the potential ramifications of these changes to help inform policymakers of the vulnerabilities of the people who are dependent on SNAP benefits and may be at risk for disenrollment if the proposed rules are implemented," he explained in an institute news release.

His team used national survey data to compare the vulnerabilities of those at risk of losing SNAP benefits and those unaffected by the proposed changes.

Those at risk of losing benefits could face higher rates chronic illness, fair-to-poor health and difficulty affording health care, the study found.

Food insecurity -- a measure of food availability and individuals' ability to access it -- would remain high in both groups, according to the study published March 9 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

"Proposed and future SNAP eligibility policies should consider the potential effects on families who, despite slightly higher incomes, have substantial health, nutrition, and financial needs," Peltz added.

More information

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has more on SNAP.

SOURCE: Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, news release, March 9, 2020

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