Mayor Kevin Faulconer and County Supervisor Ron Roberts join Paul Downey as Serving Seniors provides its one millionth meal. Photo by Melissa Jacobs

The San Diego-based Gary and Mary West Health Institute announced Wednesday a two-year research program, with Meals on Wheels America and Brown University of Rhode Island, to look into ways to improve the health of homebound seniors.

The research will integrate health and safety screenings into daily meal delivery services by Meals on Wheels of Greater San Diego, and Meals on Wheels affiliates in five other localities around the country.

“Meal delivery is an essential support for homebound seniors, providing a vital lifeline to the outside world for these individuals, and we believe the Meals on Wheels staff and volunteers can also be a critical link into the healthcare system, bringing to light possible health, wellness and safety needs,” said Shelley Lyford, president and CEO of the West Health Institute and Gary and Mary West Foundation.

“By researching how we can coordinate and extend the ability of the drivers to monitor the health and well-being of clients, we hope to identify new ways to improve the lives of seniors through the people that may be one of their only connections to the outside world,” Lyford said.

With their deliveries, Meals on Wheels staff and volunteers build relationships with recipients and are often the first to observe health changes that could lead to more serious issues.

The organizations want to standardize reporting mechanisms and improve communication with healthcare providers to prevent an adverse health event in a client. The assessment will help identify health, safety and social needs such as loneliness, depression or fall risk.

–City News Service

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