Trinity Health tackles chronic health conditions by addressing food insecurity
“The question we asked ourselves was ‘If we eliminate food insecurity, will health outcomes improve?’ And the answer from the information we’ve been able to gather is yes," Nyssa Johnson, practice leader for Trinity Health Medical Group, Primary Care – Sparta said.
Trinity Health Medical Group, Primary Care – Sparta and North Kent Connect have partnered to offer patients and their families a "Prescription for Health." The program works to address chronic health conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension, by removing the burden of food insecurity.
During the program, doctors give patients a prescription that consists of setting personal health goals, increasing consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, and attending classes or other events to learn about health, food and nutrition. Participating patients are provided with enough weekly fresh produce for their whole family, as well as kitchen items to help prepare their food like food storage containers and vegetable peelers. They are also provided with and trained to use a blood pressure cuff, pulse-oxygen monitor and scale to help track progress toward their health goals.
“This program is unique in the fact that it’s looking at the health impact that food disparity is currently having on our population,” said Nyssa Johnson, practice leader for Trinity Health Medical Group, Primary Care – Sparta. “The question we asked ourselves was ‘If we eliminate food insecurity, will health outcomes improve?’ And the answer from the information we’ve been able to gather is yes. Whether it’s diabetes, hypertension or obesity, we’ve seen the positive impact that food security can bring.”
Participants invited to join this program are immigrant Hispanic families (with at least two children) who are experiencing food insecurity, and with at least one family member who has a chronic health condition.
“Access to food is a fundamental in life. It’s a key driver for all health and wellbeing outcomes and goals," Johnson explained. "When our patients on this program know they are going to be getting the food boxes and they can depend on that, it allows them to concentrate their spending on additional necessary items, such as proteins, dairy and healthy carbs. It also helps eliminate the stress of wondering ‘How am I going to feed my family?’ During the last few years, we’ve become focused on stress and mental health as a key factor for health outcomes for our patients. Removing that barrier is beneficial to not only their physical health but their mental health as well.”
Florencia Flores Jaimez, who has been involved in the program for four months, shared “This program has been of great value, especially right now with the economy. I’m spending less money for fruits and vegetables that I otherwise would not be able to afford.” Eating more fruits and vegetables has helped her control her blood sugar.
Francisco Hernandez has been participating in the program for eight months and has seen a personal weight loss of 35 pounds. “My favorite part of the program is being able to eat healthier foods,” Francisco said. “A big thank you [to the program coordinators] for my reminders and helping me learn more about healthier habits and for being there to support.”
Fresh produce for this program is provided by local farmers through North Kent Connect.
“We know how important it is to have access to healthy, fresh food,” said Claire Guisfredi, executive director for North Kent Connect. “Assisting Trinity Health Medical Group, Sparta with this program is a perfect way to continue working towards building healthier families.”
“The most important thing to know is that food is medicine. What you put in your body is what fuels not only your physical but your mental health as well,” said Johnson. “Providing our patients access to this program has helped lower their stress levels and Body Mass Index (BMI), increase their energy and learn to use the fresh produce and health tools to attain their goals.”
Prescription for Health launched in September 2022 and currently has 22 families enrolled. Funding for Prescription for Health is provided by Sisters of Mercy, Mercy Fund for Ministry Grant Program with additional support from Saint Mary’s Foundation.