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Changes to food stamp program represent a public health threat

food stamp kick
(Jeff Danziger)

The prospect that 688,000 Americans will lose food stamp benefits under new work rules concerns not just SNAP recipients (“The right’s response to record income inequality: Cut food stamps,” Dec. 6). All of us in Maryland and across the nation should be alarmed.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People 2020, the national agenda for creating a healthier public, has as one of its goals to “promote health and reduce chronic disease risk through the consumption of healthful diets and achievement and maintenance of healthy body weights.” Multiple studies show that adults who are food insecure have higher rates of chronic diseases and have increased risk for obesity. The concern does not rest simply with individual well-being. Compromised physical, mental and social well-being puts a bigger burden on the health care system and its costs for everyone.

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As the nation continues to grapple with health care — prevention of diseases and access to affordable treatment — we cannot overlook the importance of food and nutrition to the health of the public and to ramifications that will be felt by everyone, secure and insecure. Congress has the ability to act and to reject this rule. The public health community stands ready to help our policymakers and the public understand the consequences of these decisions and to make better policy choices in the interest of the public’s health.

Adele Robinson and Dr. Boris D. Lushniak

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The writers are, respectively, the Karabelle Pizzigati Endowed Clinical Professor in Advocacy for Children, Youth and Families at the University of Maryland and the dean of the University of Maryland School of Public Health.

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