Prescription for Wellness: Doctors Explore Nutritional Interventions for Health

prescription-for-wellness-doctors-explore-nutritional-interventions-for-health

Octavia Hammond of Southeast Washington, DC, uses two credit cards to pay for her groceries at the grocery store. One card is for all fresh produce, while the other is for all other items.

Fresh Connect cards, which are used to purchase produce, are distributed by the non-profit DC Greens and its Produce RX program. It is genuinely a prescription from her doctor, but instead of medication, it is for nutritious items for her and her family.

“Because of food prices, everything is super expensive these days,” said Hammond. “Just having that little extra bump, knowing that you have picky eaters and children that want to try stuff but they might not want to finish it, it’s just a good way to introduce new foods to the household and not really put a dent in your income.”

This program helps her and her family consume healthier, which in turn benefits the entire health care system.

A study published this week in the Journal Circulation of the American Heart Association found that programs like Produce RX increased the consumption of fruits and vegetables in low-income households, where affordability is often a barrier. In addition, participants’ blood pressure, adiposity, and blood sugar levels improved.

Produce RX program manager for DC Greens, Luisa Furstenberg, stated, “It’s like the old wives tale of what our grandmothers did, but it’s very much so. Food is medicine. Food is health. Food is preventative. To be able to take care of ourselves in that way is the return on investment for all of us in ourselves.”

Participants in Produce RX are eligible for Medicaid or enrolled in the DC Health Alliance. They must visit one of the 18 clinics with which DC Greens partners and have a diet-related chronic ailment, such as elevated blood pressure or diabetes. If they qualify, they will receive a Fresh Connect card, which functions as a prepaid debit card at stores such as Giant, Safeway, and Walmart.

“Doctors were stating, “I will prescribe Metformin or I will prescribe something to lower blood pressure and my patients won’t take it. They don’t want to take it.’ They don’t want to take medication,,” explained Furstenberg. “But if I say, ‘hey, I can prescribe you fresh food,’ they’re excited.”

The money it frees up for struggling families to satisfy all of their requirements is an added benefit.

“If for nothing else, the participants in our program are just less stressed and less anxious,” said Fursternberg. “Food insecurity. We know people have depression, anxiety and stress all combined with it. So for nothing else, they have 100 extra dollars a month to spend on rent, on health care on daycare, and they’re able to have that money just to spend for fresh food. Even that has health outcomes.”

Participants in the program can receive between $80 and $100 per month on their produce cards.

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Empowering Shoppers with Fresh Connect Cards and Healthier Eating Options

prescription-for-wellness-doctors-explore-nutritional-interventions-for-health
Octavia Hammond of Southeast Washington, DC, uses two credit cards to pay for her groceries at the grocery store. One card is for all fresh produce, while the other is for all other items.

“When they get to the checkout, they can scan all of their things that they want, and then they scan their fresh connect card, and anything that qualifies gets taken off,” said Furstenberg. “Any fresh produce gets taken off. Anything else they have, if they have their meat or their dairy, they can just use their own money or like other benefits as well. So it’s really seamless, and then again, at the first of every month, this money gets loaded.”

Produce RX has been operating in Washington, D.C. since 2012, although for the first few years, funds could only be used at farmers markets. In 2019, DC Greens began collaborating with regional grocery retailers to provide inhabitants with more options.

While the national study examined programs in multiple states, Furstenberg asserts that Produce RX has its own data demonstrating comparable outcomes locally.

Acknowledging that it can be difficult to account for outside factors in a study such as this one, including how enhancing nutritional security alone can improve a person’s health, Furstenberg reported that “about 35% of our participants had lower A1C, lower blood pressure, lower BMI.”

In addition, the national study revealed that they consumed more fruits and vegetables daily.

 

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Source: Wtop

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