University Hospitals in Cleveland is hoping to help residents in the Fairfax neighborhood with a new kind of prescription: healthy food. The system will open a food pharmacy there next year.
Residents of Fairfax, which county officials declared a food desert, disproportionally suffer from health issues like hypertension, strokes and obesity.
University Hospitals’ Dr. Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew cites success of a similar program to combat diabetes in a Pennsylvania community.
“How do we help our patients who are living in food pharmacies with this whole issue of giving them the opportunity to have the right food? To have some training in nutrition. And even a dietician to look at what they’re eating [and] help them to obtain food that they need. And then really seeing if it makes a difference in managing their diabetes – and not just through medication. Because we’d like to see as many of our patients off medication as we can.”
Larkins-Pettigrew explains that nutritionists and dieticians will evaluate the patients under the new pharmacy.
“And they then proceed to the pharmacy where we have both perishable and non-perishable products for them that they’ll use within the next week – or two – depending on what they need and the fact that they can afford it. And then they’ll come back for a follow-up treatment so that we’ll know just how well they’re doing with this new change in diet.”
The food pharmacy prescribes a healthy diet rather than medications.
Nearly 66 percent of Cleveland’s Fairfax neighborhood live below or near the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.