Food as Medicine: The New Prescription for Wellness

September 6, 2017

As covered in our Market Watch feature this month, consumers are increasingly focusing on healthy eating and regular physical activity as a way to boost wellness and prevent disease. But they’re not the only ones—health-care providers, hospitals and clinics are getting in on the mix, too!

An increasing number of programs that focus on improving diet as a way to help treat diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and other common health concerns are popping up across the country. These programs don’t just talk the talk, they actually help patients walk the walk—providing support, funding, access and in some cases, even literal prescriptions, for healthy foods.

One such program recently launched by the Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania is called the Fresh Food Pharmacy. According to the organization’s website, the program is designed to help low-income patients with diabetes keep their disease under control by providing prescriptions for free, healthy foods. Patients can come to the hospital weekly to pick up their food prescriptions—and take advantage of nutrition classes and cooking advice.

The Fresh Food Pharmacy program currently targets diabetes due to its close connection with obesity. Following a healthy meal plan and maintaining a healthy weight can help patients with diabetes avoid serious complications, and in some cases, actually help lower or even eliminate the need for prescription medications.

Those are just the kind of results patients are experiencing, said the program’s creator Dr. Andrea Feinberg in a recent interview with CBS This Morning. “It’s over-the-top successful,” Feinberg told CBS News. “It’s worked for every single patient. We’re talking about reversing the diabetes. Curing the type 2 diabetes and help the patients move themselves from the sick category to the healthy category.”

In a similar initiative, non-profit group Wholesome Wave is helping connect health-care providers throughout the United States with local farms and grocers in their communities to offer lower-income, at-risk patients greater access to healthy fruits and vegetables. The partnerships enable health-care providers to prescribe fruits and vegetables to patients, which act as vouchers that can be redeemed at participating stores or farmer’s markets. According to Wholesome Wave’s website, historically, over half of program participants have decreased their BMI, which can in turn lower their risk for obesity-related problems such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

For consumers who may have the means to buy healthy foods, but lack the knowledge about what’s best, a number of retailers and health programs are offering “Shop with a Doc” programs and in-store nutritionists to help guide shoppers’ choices.

“These programs bring to life the broader retail concept of connecting pharmacy and grocery—and offer yet another way for retailers and suppliers to
become partners in shoppers’ wellness journey,” says Nicole Peranick, Daymon Director of Thought Leadership – Culinary.

 

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