Meal choices are a major determining factor of personal health. Our bodies need certain nutrients to work properly or health will decline over time. This is even more apparent and important for people suffering from chronic diseases, such as diabetes, where the consequences are more severe. Geisinger’s Fresh Food Pharmacy Program sees food as a medicine in maintaining proper health and preventing diseases.
Members of Geisinger Medical Center’s Advisory Council were provided an overview of the program recently by Dr. Andrea Feinberg. Dr. Feinberg is the Medical Director of Health and Wellness for Geisinger and is also the spouse of Dr. David Feinberg, Geisinger President and CEO.
The Fresh Food Pharmacy is designed to address the health challenges faced by patients with diabetes and food insecurity. The program is being piloted in Northumberland County with scalability to those most in need throughout the extended region and the nation. Complimentary goals of the program include:
- Ensuring that area residents with diabetes and those who suffer from food insecurity have access to quality healthcare and nutrition education, as well as to the nutritious foods they need to get and stay well
- Narrowing the meal gap (i.e., the shortage of meals) in Northumberland County
- Reducing the incidence of short-term diabetes complications
- Decreasing the amount of diabetes-related medications the patient takes
- Decreasing the patient’s cost-of-care burden
- Educating members of the community on the connection between nutrition and wellness
The initiative, a partnership between the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank and Geisinger, began its pilot phase in July 2016, when it enrolled six food-insecure patients with diabetes from Geisinger’s Kulpmont Clinic. Participants are not only given healthy foods, but recipes and guidance from a Geisinger dietitian. Members of the initial pilots have seen significant decreases in their HbA1c blood sugar levels and improvements in emotional well-being. The program will be implemented at other Geisinger locations over time.