Today’s Raleigh News & Observer reported about the closing of a downtown grocery store and the impact that had on local residents’ ability to eat healthy foods. Because of the closing, that area is now considered a “food desert” meaning an urban resident would have to travel more than one mile to get to a full service grocery store. In a rural community, a food desert means a drive of 10 miles or more to a full service grocery store.

When we look at population health management, Market Vue Partners has a broader definition of food desert, one that helps healthcare systems better understand their patients’ healthy lifestyle challenges. We look at distance to nutrient-rich grocery stores but we also look at the mix of healthy & unhealthy options in each neighborhood. Our Health Vues platform quickly visualizes the challenges facing local populations when managing their healthcare year-round, not just the 3-4 days they visit with their doctor.

As the health field makes the enormous transition from a focus on treatment to a far greater emphasis on prevention, the need to better understand consumer behavior and their local environments will become a key driver in getting closer to the triple aim goals of improved patient experience, better population outcomes & lower per capita costs.