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New Study to Examine Health Impacts of Nutrition Benefits Among low-income adults with disabilities in Michigan


The Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, in partnership with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), and national nonprofit Benefits Data Trust (BDT), has received a grant of more than $2 million from the National Institute of Nursing Research to study the effects of enrollment assistance for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) on the health of low-income adults with disabilities.

Johns Hopkins School of Nursing researchers Drs. Laura Samuel and Bonnielin Swenor, who is also the director of the Johns Hopkins Disability Health Research Center, have been awarded a Research Project Grant (R01) for a five-year study of the effects of SNAP outreach and enrollment assistance on health, health care utilization, and SNAP utilization among adult Medicaid beneficiaries with disabilities. The research will also seek to understand the characteristics of those who may benefit most from the program.

“Results from this work are urgently needed to improve food access for low-income adults with disabilities and advance health equity—two critical public health priorities,” said Laura Samuel, Assistant Professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing and principal investigator of the study.

SNAP outreach and enrollment assistance is provided through the Michigan Benefits Center, a partnership between MDHHS and BDT. BDT is a national nonprofit focused on modernizing access to public benefits. Today, more than $80 billion in food, financial aid, healthcare, and other assistance goes untapped by people who are eligible to receive it.

Since 2021, BDT has partnered with MDHHS to reach out to Medicaid beneficiaries who are likely eligible for – but unenrolled in – SNAP. In 2022, BDT submitted more than 6,000 SNAP applications for people who called the Michigan Benefits Center after receiving an outreach letter or text message.

“MDHHS is committed to helping families put food on the table,” said MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel. “This partnership can better ensure eligible Michigan residents are connected to benefits and are able to access healthy foods which can improve their overall health.”

Since its founding in 2005, BDT has helped secure more than $10 billion in food, healthcare, and other benefits for families and individuals across the country.

“We have a significant opportunity to build our understanding of how best to support SNAP access among people with disabilities, a population whose access to public benefits is understudied,” said Trooper Sanders, CEO of Benefits Data Trust. “In addition to our outreach and application assistance to help people today, BDT leverages our data, technology, research and policy expertise to strengthen the social safety net of tomorrow and ensure people quickly and easily receive assistance when they are eligible for it.”  

Previous research has demonstrated the effectiveness of BDT’s outreach on SNAP enrollment and shown that SNAP enrollment for older adults is associated with healthcare cost savings and fewer hospital and long-term care admissions and emergency room visits. A prior study conducted in partnership between BDT and the Johns Hopkins team showed that greater SNAP access is associated with less need for hospital and nursing home use for older adults.

For this new study, Drs. Samuel and Swenor will evaluate the role of SNAP outreach and enrollment assistance on health outcomes and SNAP enrollment for people with disabilities.


About Johns Hopkins School of Nursing

Located in Baltimore, the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing (JSHON) is a globally-recognized leader in nursing education, research, and practice. In U.S. News & World Report rankings, the school is No. 1 nationally for its DNP program and No. 2 for its master’s. In addition, JHSON is ranked as the No. 3 nursing school in the world by QS World University. The school is ranked among the top nursing schools receiving research funding from the National Institutes of Health. Its research centers and areas of expertise provide an environment for expanding knowledge, integrating specific education and practice initiatives, and mentoring new scholars. JHSON is a five-time recipient of the INSIGHT Into Diversity Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award and a four-time Best School for Men in Nursing award recipient. For more information, visit www.nursing.jhu.edu.

About the Johns Hopkins Disability Health Research Center

The Johns Hopkins Disability Health Research Center (DHRC) aims to shift the paradigm from ‘living with a disability’ to ‘thriving with a disability’ through research, education, and policy. By using data-driven approaches, The DHRC is addressing the inequities impacting people with disabilities across sectors, including healthcare, food access, housing, transportation, employment, and education. Housed within the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, the DHRC includes diverse experts and trainees from across Johns Hopkins University and partners with disability advocacy organizations, nonprofit and professional organizations, and national, state, and local policymakers. Visit disabilityhealth.jhu.edu to learn more.

About Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is located in all 83 Michigan counties and provides a variety of services to the residents of Michigan. MDHHS provides opportunities, services, and programs that promote a healthy, safe, and stable environment for residents to be self-sufficient. The MDHHS mission is to develop and encourage measurable health, safety, and self-sufficiency outcomes that reduce and prevent risks, promote equity, foster healthy habits, and transform the health and human services system to improve the lives of Michigan families. 

About Benefits Data Trust 

Benefits Data Trust (BDT) improves health and financial security by harnessing the power of data, technology, and policy to provide dignified and equitable access to assistance. Together with a national network of government agencies and partners, we efficiently connect people today to programs that pay for food, healthcare, and more while helping to modernize benefits access for tomorrow. A nonprofit since 2005, BDT has secured more than $10 billion in benefits for households across the country, helping to reduce hunger and poverty and build pathways to economic mobility. Learn more at bdtrust.org.