Friday, March 31, 2017
For Our Community Health Workers There Are No Limits When it Comes to Assisting Patients in the Vegetable and Fruit Prescription Program
The Institute for Family Health’s Bronx Health REACH Vegetable and Fruit Prescription Program encourages obese patients to eat more fruits and vegetables. Six hundred and six patients across three Institute health centers in the Bronx - Stevenson, Mt. Hope and Walton - have received prescriptions for vegetables and fruits from their providers who encourage them to “fill” the Rx at supermarkets, bodegas, and farmers’ markets participating in the program. Patients attending a farmers’ market tour receive $10 worth of Health Bucks to spend at the market on fruits and vegetables. Health Bucks are $2 vouchers distributed by the New York City Department of Health to be used only for the purchase of fruits and vegetables at farmers markets.
Our Community Health Workers are a key element of the Vegetable and Fruit Prescription Program. They provide the patients with nutrition information, invite them to participate in the food demos held at the health centers, and attend tours of supermarkets, bodegas and farmers’ markets. Joseph Ellis, our current Community Health Worker, is a lifelong resident of the Bronx with a remarkable commitment to the community and his fellow residents. As he enrolls patients into the Vegetable and Fruit Prescription Program, conducts baseline and follow-up surveys, coordinates the supermarket and farmers market tours, and assists in food demonstrations he is constantly encouraging patients to make even small changes in their eating habits that can go a long way to improving their health.
Joseph describes his role as very rewarding. He attributes that to his interaction with the community residents and the fact that he works with some amazing people at the health centers. Working with patients at the health centers has made him more conscious of social issues affecting the community. “I didn’t realize the amount of help that some people need. Needing [assistance] with nutrition and learning to eat healthier doesn’t have a particular face, color, or economic background. People are in need of help and we do our best to aid the patients any way we can.” He recalls one instance where a provider from the Walton Family Health Center approached him regarding a concern he had about a patient. The patient was not taking her medicine because she could not afford to buy food, and for the medicine to work, it needed to be taken with food. Immediately, Joseph went to a local church food pantry and was able to get 2 bags of groceries for the patient. He also gave her information about 2 other food pantries that were located near her home. With tears in her eyes, she thanked him and let him know what a great help he had been.
Zaira Hernandez, a former Community Health Worker in the Vegetable and Fruit Prescription Program agrees that her experience in the program has also been filled with many learning experiences. “Working as a Community Health Worker for the Vegetable and Fruit prescription program has been an incredible experience. Many patients have shared with me their love of fruits and vegetables, but that they find it difficult to buy healthy food where they live.”
Zaira remembers one patient telling her that when she would visit her native country, the Dominican Republic, she was able to not only purchase fruits and vegetables at a lower price, but she could also literally get them from her backyard where there were mango trees providing her free daily access to fresh fruit. In contrast, when she returned to the Bronx she no longer had those options. Zaira was able to connect the patient to services where she could purchase fruits and vegetables.
Changing one’s eating habits is not an easy goal, but with our Community Health Worker's knowledge, passion and commitment to improving patient’s health, our Community Health Workers are making a difference with the Vegetable and Fruit Prescription Program.