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Nutritional policy changes in the supplemental nutrition assistance program: a microsimulation and cost-effectiveness analysis

Sanjay Basu, Hilary Seligman, Jay Bhattacharya
Medical Decision Making: An International Journal of the Society for Medical Decision Making 2013, 33 (7): 937-48
23811757

BACKGROUND: Some experts have proposed limiting the use of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, for calorie-dense foods or subsidizing SNAP purchases of healthier foods.

OBJECTIVE: To estimate health effects and cost-effectiveness of banning or taxing sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) or subsidizing fruits and vegetables purchased with SNAP.

DESIGN: . Microsimulation. Data Sources. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, US Department of Agriculture Quarterly Food-at-Home Price Database, and SNAP program data.

TARGET POPULATION: US adults aged 25 to 64 y. Time Horizon. 10 y. Perspective. Governmental.

OUTCOME MEASURES: Incremental costs, quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs), body mass index, Alternative Healthy Eating Index, Food Security Score, diabetes person-years, and deaths from myocardial infarctions (MIs) and strokes.

RESULTS: of Base-Case Analysis. Banning SSB purchases using SNAP benefits would be expected to avert 510,000 diabetes person-years and 52,000 deaths from MIs and strokes over the next decade, with a savings of $2900 per QALY saved. A penny-per-ounce tax on SSBs purchased with SNAP dollars would produce higher cost savings due to tax revenues but avert fewer chronic disease deaths. However, some SNAP participants are likely to preferentially purchase SSBs through their disposable income, indirectly reducing their food security. A 30% produce subsidy would be expected to avert 39,000 diabetes person-years and 4600 cardiovascular deaths over 10 y without effects on food security. Results of Sensitivity Analysis. Results are sensitive to the intake elasticities of SSBs and produce. Limitations. Input data did not provide information on heterogeneity in response to price changes within the SNAP-using

POPULATION: <AbstractText Label="CONCLUSIONS">SNAP restrictions on SSBs could lower chronic disease mortality, but further testing should examine indirect effects on disposable income and food security. Subsidizing produce could confer fewer benefits or risks but at higher cost.

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