Food Pharmacy – Treating food as medicine

The negative health effects of obesity and diabetes ranked among the most serious health concerns identified by Parkview’s 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment. In an effort to address these issues, Parkview LaGrange Hospital created a multidisciplinary task force comprised of clinicians from family medicine, nutrition services, pharmacy, lab and nursing. After nearly a year of research and planning, the task force launched the Food Pharmacy pilot program at Parkview LaGrange in early February 2018.

The Food Pharmacy pilot program focused on helping each client experience measurable success by:

  • Reducing the negative health effects of obesity and diabetes
  • Using food as medicine
  • Learning and practicing the skills needed to change their lifestyle
  • Practicing careful and collaborative medication management

The 10 people who participated in the pilot program were required to meet certain inclusion criteria, including specific health measures and a willingness to make some lifestyle changes. They were also asked to sign a participant contract to abide by the program’s standards. All clients were required to be referred by their primary care physician.

The Food Pharmacy pilot consisted of 18 sessions over a period of 6 months. The classes combined education about diabetes, nutrition education, medication therapy management and cooking classes. Over half the classes involved hands-on meal preparation using recipes high in flavor and nutrients and low in carbohydrates and empty calories.

To lay the groundwork for measuring outcomes, lab tests were done at the beginning, midpoint and final class of the series. In addition, each class included a weigh-in and blood pressure check. Medication changes or interventions were made for clients as needed.

By the final session of the Food Pharmacy pilot program, weight loss, improved laboratory results – including an average aggregate lowering of A1C results – and reduction in blood pressures were just a few of the benefits the clients experienced. 

The driving force behind these results has been the members’ new approach to food. “I can tell when my blood sugar spikes when I eat too much,” class member Tyler Dearduff said. “I am checking my blood sugar all the time and have learned that I can actually lower my blood sugar when I eat healthy.”

Thanks to the 144 Parkview paddlers at the 2018 Paddle for Parkview, the proceeds raised will help support the launch of a new Food Pharmacy class in 2019.


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