Press Release

West Health Institute launches exciting research study with Meals on Wheels and Brown University

4 min
September 08, 2016

Two-year study to take place in six cities around the country to identify extended benefits of Meals on Wheels service to vulnerable seniors

SAN DIEGO, CA; ARLINGTON, VA and PROVIDENCE, RI – May 25, 2016 – The Gary and Mary West Health Institute, Meals on Wheels America and a research group in the Brown University Center for Gerontology and Healthcare Research are collaborating on a two-year research program to investigate opportunities to improve the general health and well-being of homebound seniors by integrating health and safety screenings into daily meal delivery services. The research will be taking place in the following cities:

  • Cambridge, OH – Guernsey County Senior Citizens Center
  • Fort Worth, TX – Meals on Wheels of Tarrant County
  • Raleigh, NC – Meals on Wheels of Wake County
  • San Diego, CA – Meals on Wheels of Greater San Diego, Inc.
  • Sheboygan, WI – Fresh Meals of Sheboygan County
  • Westwood, NJ – Pascack Valley Meals on Wheels

Meals on Wheels volunteers visit with senior clients daily and are often the only person a senior will see in a day. With 9.6 million seniors facing the threat of hunger, and 15.2 million living alone in isolation, the Meals on Wheels staff and volunteers build important relationships with meal recipients and are usually the first person to observe health status changes that could lead to more serious issues, and to routinely report any issues to caregivers or healthcare providers.

The aim of this two-year program, called More Than a Meal Phase 3, is to standardize reporting mechanisms and improve communication with healthcare providers to prevent an adverse health event. The assessment will help identify health, safety and social needs such as loneliness, depression or fall risk. By providing volunteers with simple screening tools and user-friendly technology, the study is designed to improve care coordination across the medical and home community, informing providers and caregivers of changing conditions before a potentially catastrophic health event occurs.

“Our More Than a Meal research series with Brown University continues to reinforce the holistic value of Meals on Wheels,” said Ellie Hollander, President and CEO of Meals on Wheels America. “It is our hope that Phase 3 will enable us to rigorously understand and continue to validate the extended benefits of crossing the threshold into a client’s home on their overall health and quality of life.”

“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.”

Meals on Wheels America has been an important collaborator with the West Health Institute and Gary and Mary West Foundation, which in February announced a $200,000 grant to conduct a retrospective review of the demographic and associated healthcare information of Meals on Wheels recipients to gain insight on the program’s health benefits to Medicare recipients as part of the More Than a Meal Phase 2 study. The Foundation has also supported Meals on Wheels of Greater San Diego to build a state-of-the-art meal center with a commercial kitchen that served more than 430,000 meals to 3,000 seniors in 2015.

“This program provides an opportunity to further analyze the impact that home-delivered meals can have on the health and well-being of older adults,” said gerontologist Kali Thomas, assistant professor (research) of Health Services, Policy and Practice in the Brown University School of Public Health. “In the data we have gathered in earlier phases we have found important benefits of home-delivered meals beyond just nutrition. As we continue this research, it is important to have the support of organizations like the West Health Institute and Gary and Mary West Foundation that understand the significance of the connection between Meals on Wheels programs and the people they serve.”

About Gary and Mary West Health Institute

The Gary and Mary West Health Institute is a 501(c)(3) medical research organization dedicated to helping seniors successfully age in place on their own terms. The Institute focuses on applied medical research and advocacy to advance home- and community-based healthcare delivery, services and supports that preserve and protect seniors’ dignity, quality of life and independence.

The San Diego-based Institute, which is solely funded by Gary and Mary West, collaborates with the Gary and Mary West Foundation and nonprofit, nonpartisan Gary and Mary West Health Policy Center in Washington D.C. on senior-centered healthcare policy and payment reform. For more information, visit and follow @westhealth.

About Meals on Wheels America and the Brown University School of Public Health

Meals on Wheels America is the oldest and largest national organization supporting the more than 5,000 community-based programs across the country that are dedicated to addressing senior isolation and hunger. This network exists in virtually every community in America and, along with more than two million staff and volunteers, delivers the nutritious meals, friendly visits and safety checks that enable America’s seniors to live nourished lives with independence and dignity. By providing funding, leadership, education, research and advocacy support, Meals on Wheels America empowers its local member programs to strengthen their communities, one senior at a time. For more information, or to find a Meals on Wheels provider near you, visit

Through research, education, and public service, the Brown University School of Public Health strives to improve the health of individuals as well as populations. Working within all of Brown University, and the wider community, students benefit from substantial opportunities to gain and apply knowledge, while faculty members put their findings into practice to impact local, state, and national policy.