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"Heart-Healthy" Diet Helped Reduce Inmate Health Care Costs By Millions

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Flickr: AllenGottfried
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The Ohio Department of Corrections reports a reduction in health care costs, in part, to a "heart healthy" diet.

The Ohio Department of Corrections has cut health care costs by millions during the past decade. Part of the savings comes from a change to inmate diets.

Less sodium. Less fat. More fruits. More veggies. It’s part of the “heart-healthy menu” at Ohio prisons.

The changes took place, in 2006, after the department settled a lawsuit for inadequate medical care.

“There’s a lot of individuals that don’t like the menu," ODRC healthcare operations manager Stuart Hudson said.

The diet, Hudson said, has proven beneficial.

“Over time we have seen tangible things like decrease in mortality rate, diseases of the heart.”

In recent years, DRC's health care costs have declined by nearly $40 million or more than 17 percent. While Hudson can’t give all the credit to what inmates are eating, he said it’s a contributory factor.

“It’s not just because of the heart healthy menu, but it’s combination of things, everything working together in a graded health care system.”

Medicaid expansion, Hudson said, has helped reduce health care costs. For instance, inmate hospital stays are picked up by Medicaid now.

“If they’re admitted for more than 24 hours, then we apply for Medicaid and we’re able to divert that bill directly to Medicaid rather than have it come to DRC.”

Hudson added the department has been able to reduce the number of special diets for heart and blood pressure problems since the menu changes.