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AHA fosters and supports community efforts to make healthy eating and physical activity the way of life in Wake County.

Doctor’s Orders: Fresh Veggies and Rx for Exercise at Alliance Medical Ministry

harvest

Fresh vegetables from the Alliance Medical Ministry Community garden for patients at the clinic.

AHA Partner in the Spotlight

Providing affordable health care for uninsured adults has always been the mission at Alliance Medical Ministry (AMM), but now doctors there are giving fresh produce from AMM’s community garden to patients and prescribing exercise classes held at the clinic to help patients improve their health.

The garden, started in 2010 in collaboration with the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle (IFFS) and now maintained by the Alliance and volunteers, is on track to yield 1,000 pounds of local, healthy produce for AMM patients this year. “Our doctors started handing out bags of produce to patients in the spring, and we are continuing to do that,” said Megg Rader, AMM executive director. “Doctors have handed out 30 to 50 bags in a given day, for every patient until they run out. When it goes from a doctor’s hands to a patient’s hands, there’s no denying the power of it,” she said.

Along with bags of produce, the doctors give out recipes and information about other sources for fresh produce, such as local farmers’ markets, during patients’ appointments. Rader said it’s part of AMM’s deliberate effort to strengthen its Disease Management Program and to add diverse opportunities for caring for and treating their patients with chronic health issues. “We are investing more time and resources in incorporating our community garden into the mix of solutions to address chronic disease and as well as reaching out to our surrounding community with solutions to food insecurity through access to produce from our garden,” Rader said.

With 22% of AMM’s patients diagnosed with diabetes and 55% diagnosed with two or more chronic health issues (such as high blood pressure, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and obesity), AMM’s doctors are talking with patients about healthy eating and exercise. In fact, they are now dispensing prescriptions for exercise. “That relationship with the doctor, that one-on-one conversation where the doctor says it’s important for you to try this exercise and come to this class, that makes a difference,” Rader said.  AMM just completed a 4-week pilot of its first weekly yoga class offered at its office for patients. Rader said AMM has 20 yoga mats for 20 participants, and after enrolling 30 people over a two-month period, 17 came regularly. “We’ve gotten great verbal feedback—they loved it,” Rader continued.

Alliance Medical Ministry doctors are prescribing physical activity for patients and providing classes like this yoga class.

Alliance Medical Ministry doctors are prescribing physical activity for patients and providing classes like this yoga class.

Other exercise classes, walking and garden activities are all part of the plan. “The early results of our patients involved in chronic disease specific programs are very positive with identified weight loss and lower blood sugar levels among program participants,” she said. “We believe extending our efforts with our community garden will only enhance and contribute to the positive outcomes.”

To that end, AMM is partnering with IFFS to offer four 6-week sessions of Cooking Matters over the course of the next year, with medical and program staff engaging and enrolling patients. AMM also will partner with Voices into Action, Wake County Cooperative Extension and the Poe Center for Health Education to offer the Faithful Families Eating Smart Moving More curriculum.

Vote for the Alliance

Rader also shared that the Alliance Community Garden has been nominated for a Save a Bee Campaign Award from Toxic Free NC and The Burt’s Bees Greater Good Foundation; the award is given to gardens helping to provide healthy and fresh food to people in North Carolina. Rader invites everyone to vote online through Oct. 22 to support the Alliance’s garden.

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