Hunger topic of Chicago session

ProMedica asks health-care providers to ‘Come to the Table’

Randy Oostra, president and CEO of ProMedica, speaks during the Come to the Table: Building a Hunger-Free Region summit last year.
Randy Oostra, president and CEO of ProMedica, speaks during the Come to the Table: Building a Hunger-Free Region summit last year.

ProMedica Health System is extending its reach outside of northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan in an attempt to influence policy makers and change the medical community’s approach to the issue of hunger.

The hospital system is sponsoring a meeting in Chicago today called “Come to the Table,” which aims to bring together health-care providers from midwestern cities to discuss hunger as a health issue.

“The implications to the health-care industry are staggering and that’s why we believe that ProMedica has a place at the table and why the health-care industry has a place at this table,” said Barbara Petee, chief public affairs and government relations officer at ProMedica.

Ms. Petee said the lack of access to nutritious food is the root cause of many health issues, such as obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. It costs the U.S. health-care system about $130 billion per year and “we are now absorbing these costs as an industry,”she said.

The Chicago event will feature experts from the medical and social-service fields including Dr. Megan Sandel, principal Investigator with Children’s Healthwatch, a policy research group based in Boston.

Dr. Sandel, who also works for Boston University School of Medicine, said she has developed two questions that are asked of every patient: In the past 12 months have you worried that your food will run out before you could buy more, and in the past 12 months has your food run out before you could buy more?

If a patient answers yes to one of those, that patient is facing food insecurity, she said. It’s a problem facing as many as 50 million Americans, she said.

ProMedica collaborated with the national group The Alliance to End Hunger, launching “Come to the Table” project in February with a meeting in Washington that was attended by 150 participants and several members of Congress, including U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), Ms. Petee said.

“ProMedica is understanding that hunger is a significant problem and a barrier to good health. I think what they are doing is really very forward thinking,” said Paul Kuehnert, director of the public health team at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Washington. “We can’t sustain spending one out of every five dollars on health care. We are spending too much and getting too little out of it.”

Contact Marlene Harris-Taylor at or 419-724-6091.