"I Was Able to Eat What I Am Supposed to Eat"-- Patient Reflections on a Medically-Tailored Meal Intervention: A Qualitative Analysis

BMC Endocr Disord. 2020 Jan 20;20(1):10. doi: 10.1186/s12902-020-0491-z.


Background: Medically-tailored meal programs that provide home-delivered medically-appropriate food are an emerging intervention when type 2 diabetes co-occurs with food insecurity (limited or uncertain access to nutritious food owing to cost). We sought to understand the experiences of medically-tailored meal program participants.

Methods: We conducted semi-structured interviews with participants in a randomized trial of medically-tailored meals (NCT02426138) until reaching content saturation. Participants were adults (age > 20 years) with type 2 diabetes in eastern Massachusetts, and the interviews were conducted from April to July 2017. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and coded by two independent reviewers. We determined emergent themes using content analysis.

Results: Twenty individuals were interviewed. Their mean age was 58 (SD: 13) years, 60.0% were women, 20.0% were non-Hispanic black, and 15.0% were Hispanic. Key themes were 1) satisfaction and experience with medically-tailored meals 2) food preferences and cultural appropriateness, 3) diabetes management and awareness, and 4) suggestions for improvement and co-interventions. Within these themes, participants were generally satisfied with medically-tailored meals and emphasized the importance of receiving culturally appropriate food. Participants reported several positive effects of medically-tailored meals, including improved quality of life and ability to manage diabetes, and stress reduction. Participants suggested combining medically-tailored meals with diabetes self-management education or lifestyle interventions.

Conclusions: Individuals with diabetes and food insecurity expressed satisfaction with the medically-tailored meal program, and reported that participation reduced stress and the burden of diabetes management. Suggestions to help ensure the success of medically-tailored meal programs included a strong emphasis on culturally acceptability and accommodating taste preferences for provided foods, and combining medically-tailored meals with diabetes education or lifestyle intervention.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02426138.

Keywords: Food insecurity; Medically-tailored meals; Socioeconomic factors; Type 2 diabetes mellitus.