Viocare, Inc. and Lambent Data, Inc. have announced that the New Jersey Commission on Science, Innovation and Technology (“CSIT”) has awarded a grant for the proposal on which Viocare and Lambent partnered to improve food security.
Through this grant, Viocare and Lambent will further develop technology that 1) assists low-income families to thrive by addressing nutrition and social drivers of food insecurity and 2) supports social service and healthcare practitioners in helping these families flourish.
Viocare and Lambent have developed a strategic partnership that includes this work in NJ and extends elsewhere in the U.S.
In this project, Viocare and Lambent will further develop and integrate the following components: 1) Viocare’s experience in building evidence-based nutritional assessments licensed by world-leading hospitals, universities, and other institutions, 2) Updating of Viocare’s Living Well Navigator (LWN) technology to incorporate newly available technologies, 3) Assessments related to Social Drivers of Health (SDoHs), and 4) Lambent's OurREACH™ HIPAA-compliant collaborative platform and app, with data analytics and AI, which offers robust milestones, goals, integrated resources, and communication features regarding health and SDoHs.
“CSIT is pleased to support the work of Viocare through the Food and Agriculture R&D Pilot Grant Program. Their innovative approach and partnership with Lambent Data in implementing new technologies, including AI, addresses the food security needs of communities across the state resulting in increased access to nutritious foods. Providing R&D Seed Grants to businesses in critical sectors is both beneficial to the individual entities and important to the strength of NJ’s overall innovation economy,” said Judith Sheft, Executive Director, NJ Commission on Science, Innovation and Technology.
As noted from the NJ Department of Health 2020 Health Assessment Data on Food Insecurity, over 650,000 New Jerseyans, including over 175,000 children, are food insecure. This represents 7.4% overall and 9% of children. About 17% of Blacks and Hispanics are food insecure. Some counties are higher than others, including 22% of children in South Jersey. The NJ Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) has researched and mapped 50 Food Desert Communities spanning nearly 1.5 million NJ residents across all 21 counties.
And according to the United for ALICE data from the United Way calculating the cost of basics (food, housing, childcare, transportation, etc.), county by county, 37% of households in NJ and over 41% nationwide can't meet this household survival budget and thus need to make difficult trade-offs. As noted, for some of them, food insecurity is a part of this struggle.
Food insecurity also causes ripple effects, such as difficulty for children to concentrate (and thus learn) in school. It can also exacerbate chronic conditions such as diabetes.
This project recognizes that food insecurity flows from various reasons. Along with the need for more nutritional knowledge for specific health conditions (e.g., diabetes and hypertension), key social drivers include lack of healthy foods in neighborhoods, lack of transportation to stores with healthy foods, low incomes, reduced financial literacy (budgeting, etc.), lack of working appliances (such as refrigerator, stove, etc.), and long commutes to multiple jobs (resulting in less time to shop, cook, eat on a consistent schedule, exercise, etc.).
This technology will address all these issues and more – empowering people to identify their individual nutrition gaps and specific food insecurity challenges and then work through personalized solutions for themselves and their families. These will include milestones (such as in nutrition, transportation, housing, jobs, etc.), integrated local resources (such as community gardens and food banks), and communication with a community health worker or other care team member.
One objective of this project is to enhance the LWN technology by adding a HIPAA-compliant artificial intelligence (AI) component to improve the personalization of the recommendations for improving a healthy lifestyle, emphasizing food security. OurREACH™ already includes HIPAA-compliant AI elements. Through this project, further AI development will occur, to extend the capabilities of the LWN and OurREACH™ and to integrate these tools for a powerful assessment and engagement platform relevant for NJ communities and beyond.
A healthcare or social service organization would subscribe to this combined technology, to be used by their low-income patients or clients “between visits.” The organization’s staff (such as a community health worker, nutritionist, or other staff member) would be able to see and encourage the progress of the participants in a “light touch” way.
Based on Viocare’s experience in interfacing nutrition screening technologies with hospitals’ Electronic Health Record systems (EHRs) and the fact that OurREACH™ can integrate with EHRs and Client Relationship Management systems (CRMs), the new combined technology also will integrate with EHRs and CRMs – or alternatively could be used stand-alone. Its new and granular data will enable providers to improve their programs.
Community-based social service and healthcare organizations in NJ will also participate in this grant project, to provide valuable input early in the work, ongoing feedback, and a pilot of the combined technology later in the project.
“This powerful solution will combine Viocare's scientifically validated, evidence-based dietary assessment software tools with Lambent's cutting-edge technology in personalized family engagement solutions, including through AI,” said Rick Weiss, President & Founder of Viocare. “We thank CSIT for its strong commitment to innovation in addressing food insecurity. This technology can also reduce healthcare costs.”
"Lambent is excited about working with Viocare to advance food security and personalized nutrition, by equipping individuals and social service/healthcare practitioners to address both health and SDoHs," noted Kirsten Hund Blair, Lambent Data’s Co-founder & CEO. "We’re grateful to CSIT for its vision. We’re also looking forward to working with partners who are NJ community-based social service and healthcare organizations."
The NJEDA continues to accept applications from food retailers for the Food Retail Innovation in Delivery Grant (FRIDG) program. As the FRIDG program rolls out in the future, Viocare and Lambent will explore ways that the LWN-OurREACH™ technology can support and publicize this program for people to order groceries with SNAP to be delivered to the FRIDG refrigerated storage containers in Food Desert Communities.
“Food security is a powerful foundation for thriving,” noted John Ducharme, CEO of Viocare. “This project will enable further innovation, including through AI, to transform the way low-income families engage with their health and nutrition and overcome challenges, including SDoHs, thus increasing their food security. This program is a win-win proposition – better health and quality of life for individuals and lower healthcare expenditures for payors, including the public through Medicaid and Medicare.”
“These AI innovations, customized milestones, and other technology features will save staff time and also enhance the important collaborative relationship between practitioners and their patients/clients,” noted Joseph Studholme, Executive Chairman and Co-founder of Lambent Data and Executive-in-Residence at Princeton University. “This will transform the field of personalized nutrition, including addressing numerous SDoH factors.”
About Viocare, Inc.
Viocare (https://www.viocare.com) is a SaaS-based digital healthcare company that produces nutrition−based assessment and behavioral feedback systems for researchers and clinicians. Viocare’s scientifically validated dietary assessment system, VioScreen, allows healthcare professionals to provide personalized and actionable nutritional counseling, either remotely via telehealth consults or face-to-face, that drives sustainable behavior change. Such behavioral changes have a direct impact on preventable diseases – including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Patient management studies using VioScreen have proven significant improvement in health metrics (i.e., lower blood pressure and weight) and support wellness initiatives. Viocare’s technologies are licensed by world-leading hospitals, universities, and other institutions, such as those noted on Viocare's Clients webpage. Viocare has received 28 NIH grants/contracts worth over $14 million in R&D funding over 30 years.
About Lambent Data, Inc.
Lambent Data (https://www.lambentdata.com/) is an advanced technology company with roots in behavioral health research. Lambent’s flagship product, OurREACH™, is a HIPAA-compliant collaborative software platform and app, with data analytics and AI. It equips healthcare and social service providers and payors to engage their patients/clients much more fully, whether intensively or "light touch," including “between visits” in a Continuum of Care. It's empowering for patients/clients with milestones/goals, integrated resources, and communication in health and SDoHs, e.g., housing, education, jobs and financial literacy, along with parenting. Because it’s so granular for patients/clients, it also generates new data analytics never before available to providers and payors to improve programs. It fits into customer workflows, including integrating with EHRs and CRMs. Improved patient/client outcomes also lead to lower healthcare costs, crucial in preventive and value-based care. Lambent’s management team, Board and Advisors are composed of leaders in healthcare, social services and business.