Arizona Women’s Board Provides Additional $50K Grant to Valleywise Health Food Pharmacy Program
By Brian O'Malley -
Monday Apr 05, 2021
Diabetes is an epidemic that currently impacts more than 800,000 Arizonans who live with the disease. One of the primary contributing factors to this is food insecurity within communities and Maricopa County ranks fourth in the nation for those experiencing food insecurity. To address this directly, Valleywise Health is proud to announce further expansion of their Food Pharmacy Program thanks to a recent $50,000 grant from the Arizona Women’s Board through Valleywise Health Foundation.
Launched in early 2020 and operated out of Valleywise Community Health Center – South Phoenix/Laveen, the Food Pharmacy Program can accommodate 160 patients diagnosed with uncontrolled diabetes, and provide access to healthy food staples like fresh produce, proteins, and whole wheat grains. An additional pantry is now operating at the South Central location.
Patients are prescribed to visit one of the locations twice a month for six months to choose the food they would like. That food is recorded by the program coordinators along with the patients’ vitals, specifically glucose levels (A1c), to monitor progress and make suggestions to the patient. The overall goal is to prevent kidney disease and improve diabetes outcomes in the communities it affects most while educating those patients on meal planning and management of their food choices. Patients receive enough food to feed a family of four so that patients have the opportunity to educate their families and prevent future cases of diabetes.
Program coordinators Tina Younger, MD, and Sandra Chmelnik, BS, RD, CDE are pleased with the results they saw from the inaugural group of participants citing, “Out of our initial nine patients, seven did exceptional with one dropping their A1c levels from 13.5, which is severely uncontrolled, down to eight. On average we saw levels drop two points which may not seem substantial, but immediately lowers the risk of so many other health issues like heart and kidney disease.”
The Arizona Women’s Board began its support of Valleywise Health programs supporting kidney health in 2017 by providing nutritional supplements for Dialysis Clinic patients and, has now gifted Valleywise Health Foundation $200,000 to pilot, and now seed, the food pharmacy program. Food is provided in partnership with St. Mary’s Food Bank and supplemented with grant funds.
“We’re so grateful for the Arizona Women’s Board, whose support made the launch of this program possible,” said Kate Fassett, Valleywise Health Foundation Vice President of Development. “It’s an opportunity to not only focus on healthy eating and nutrition but to make a positive impact for all the families enrolled in the Food Pharmacy program.”
In addition to this program, Valleywise Health offers diabetes care and education programming at all 11 of its community health centers around the Valley and their main medical center. The diabetes care management team is comprised of three registered dieticians and one nurse, three of which round at all the community centers with Chmelnik working with inpatients at Valleywise Health Medical Center.
“At the food pharmacy, we are truly prescribing food as medicine for our patients,” says Chmelnik. “The educational component to our work is so important to the success of our patients to understand that daily food choices make a huge impact on the management, and prevention, of diabetes.”
Currently, the food pharmacy program has the capacity for more patients so to learn more about Valleywise Health and its diabetes care and management services or to book an appointment, please visit valleywisehealth.org/services.