Sentara Albemarle Medical Center pilots Food Rx program for chronic disease patients with food insecurity
Wendy Pierce, manager of grants and special projects at Sentara Albemarle Medical Center, heard about "food prescription" programs while working on a community health needs assessment a few years ago. The idea intrigued her; patients could receive prescriptions for medicine to help them once they leave the hospital, and a prescription to eat well, with the healthy food to do so.
After securing funding from Sentara, Wendy, Dr. Donald Bowling, Vice President of Medical Affairs, and Liz Reasoner, Food Bank of Albemarle executive director, launched a pilot program in early 2019 called Food Rx. Their goal is help 100 patients this year.
"Patients who are newly diagnosed with heart failure or diabetes talk with one of our educators," explains Dr. Bowling. "We can access their need for food bank boxes filled with low-sodium and lower-sugar options."
In additional to offering the specially stocked food boxes to patients monthly, Sentara Albemarle educators make referrals to healthy cooking and budgeting classes run through the food bank and Pasquotank Center of North Carolina Cooperative Extension. They also encourage visits to the local health department, which can offer extra resources to overcome food and financial concerns.
"Partnering with the food bank and the health department coincides with our goals for our patients," shares Wendy. "We think about lowering the barriers patients face: low- to no-food supply, a lack of transportation and language barriers."
The team’s goal: Keep patients from having to return to the hospital.
"Our Food Rx program will help patients live healthier and hopefully recover faster," says Liz. "We want them to have the tools to do well with their chronic diseases."