Food pharmacy treating uninsured patients with food

Posted at 7:18 AM, Jul 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-20 08:18:27-04

"The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs... But rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition." --Thomas Edison

Dr. Marianna Wetherill, Assistant Professor at OU-TU School of Community Medicine wanted to take those beliefs and use them to help low income people in Tulsa overcome chronic illness in a unique way.

She co-created a program called 'The Food Pharmacy" , where in addition to their check-ups with physicians, participants receive medically selected foods as part of their treatment.

"The patients are delighted to see that not only whenever they visit their physicians they can get access to the medications they need, they also receive additional support to make the kind of nutrition and lifestyle changes that have been recommended to them," said Weatherill.

The goal of the program is to reduce cardiovascular disease and stroke in high-risk populations.

North tulsa has one of oklahoma's highest death rates from preventable heart disease.

"Patients receive the food at no cost to them," said Weatherill. "They also receive nutrition education, and recipes to go along with the food to help support behavior change at home."

The pilot program is supported with funding from blue cross/blue shield ... And has partnered with the community food bank of eastern oklahoma..

Eileen Bradshaw, the director of the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, says they're excited about their role in the project.

"For these folks who are uninsured and have chronic disease... this kind of food pharmacy is a real life saver," said Bradshaw.

One out of six Tulsans experience food insecurity.

That's when a person lacks reliable access to enough affordable and nutritious food.

Among food insecure people in Tulsa, more than one-third or about 36%... likely don't qualify for federal nutrition assistance programs

"The Food Pharmacy teachers patients how to follow really what we consider a healthy eating pattern," said Weatherill. " Luckily this healthy eating pattern not only can be used to help manage chronic conditions, but also help prevent chronic conditions from occurring."

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