How The Food is Medicine Program Is Reducing The Burden of Diabetes Among Residents of Montgomery County
The links between diet and diabetes are clear — good nutrition is an effective form of prevention and balanced, predictable meals are essential to diabetes management. In Montgomery County, over 60,000 residents are food insecure – meaning they lack reliable access to sufficient and nutritious food. This makes the management of chronic disease especially difficult, largely among low-income residents served by Montgomery County’s safety-net health care programs including Montgomery Cares and Care for Kids.
Food is Medicine offers a way to bridge the gap between local safety-net health systems and food access, reducing the burden of diabetes and other chronic illnesses. The program integrates food insecurity screenings into health care visits and case management, combined with clear pathways for food assistance and nutrition education referrals by Community Health Workers (CHWs).
Olanike moved to the US from Nigeria where she experienced violence and a corrupt government. A patient of Mobile Med, she was screened for food insecurity and referred to the Food is Medicine program partner, CHEER. In addition to diabetes, Olanike also suffered from high blood pressure. When the CHEER community health workers (CHWs) contacted her initially, Olanike did not know much about diabetes and did not have a car. The team at CHEER signed her up to have fruits and vegetables delivered to her home. After meeting with a CHW in-person, Olanike learned to eat small portions of fruits and vegetables and her goal was to improve control of her diabetes and lower her HbA1c. She began an exercise routine and with the support of her CHW was able to continue through the winter. At the end of the program, she was connected to additional food assistance resources for ongoing support.
After 7 months of completing the program, Olanike improved her glycemic control (HbA1c), bringing it from poor control to good and lost over 20 pounds. Since joining the program, Olanike obtained her nurse’s aide license and now has a full-time job, her own apartment, and a car.
The Food is Medicine program has connected over 2,000 individuals like Olanike to food assistance services and local food pantries. The program also offers individual and group nutrition classes as well as regular, family-friendly, healthy cooking demonstrations to diabetic & pre-diabetic residents. Sixty-five percent (65%) of diabetic and pre-diabetic patients that have received this intensive intervention experienced weight loss and improved their glycemic control, reducing their long-term health care spending.
Food is Medicine was funded by the Healthy Montgomery Transforming Communities Initiative and the Business Leaders Fighting Hunger. For more information about the program or to support with a donation click here.
About Transforming Communities Initiative
The Healthy Montgomery Transforming Communities Initiative (TCI) is a partnership between the Institute for Public Health Innovation (IPHI), Trinity Health affiliate Holy Cross Health, the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, and numerous other government and community partners. Montgomery County, Maryland is one of eight locations selected by Trinity Health for investment through their national TCI grant program.
TCI is an innovative, collaborative funding initiative established by Trinity Health, one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic health care delivery systems in the nation. Grant recipients, in collaboration with a community coalition(s), implement and support evidence-based and innovative policy, systems and environmental change strategies to reduce obesity, promote tobacco-free living and address social influencers of health. TCI leverages health system funding, community partnerships, local match dollars, capital loan dollars, and national technical assistance resources to improve community health.