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Inclusive diet

KCH Assistant Professor Mina Raj gets CHAD grant to examine inclusive diets in long-term care

KCH Assistant Professor Mina Raj received a grant from the Center on Health, Aging, and Disability for her project entitled, ““Towards the development of guidelines for inclusive foods in long-term care.”

The CHAD Pilot Grant, which is valued at for $29,646 for 18 months starting July 1, aims to find out more about resident preferences for inclusive diets from the perspectives of long-term care (LTC) personnel, and understand the practice and regulatory barriers and facilitators to promoting inclusive diets in long-term care facilities in order to ultimately develop guidelines for implementing inclusive diets in long-term care facilities.

An inclusive diet, as defined in this study, is one that considers dietary preferences that may be informed by cultural norms or traditions.

The study is important, Raj said, because, “Food is a fundamental aspect of community and is also tied to mental and physical health outcomes. For instance, eating traditional foods has been linked with promoting joy and delight among patients with dementia.”

“We have an increasingly diverse aging population, and as our health system pursues health equity and addressing health disparities, it is critical to understand how to ensure that long-term facilities promote inclusiveness and belonging,” she said. “Even though the number of racial and ethnic minority older adults living in long-term care facilities in the U.S. has increased substantially in the last few decades, these older adults are still very reluctant to reside in long-term care facilities and a primary concern is the alignment of dietary preferences and options offered in facilities. Availability of preferred foods that align with cultural norms and traditions could promote food consumption thereby reducing the risk of frailty and associated health conditions among older adults.”

Another of the study’s goals is to identify regulatory barriers to inclusive diets in LTC facilities. For example, one regulatory barrier is the vendors or grocery stores from which LTC facilities are allowed to purchase prepared meals or ingredients for cooking in the facility. The vendors may not offer inclusive diets or grocery stores may not sell produce needed to prepare meals that are traditional to certain communities, Raj said. Raj said she hopes this study can inform modification of these types of regulations and contribute to inclusion and health equity in LTC facilities..

Raj said the study will focus on long-term care facilities across Illinois, Michigan and Indiana.

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