What’s called a “vegetable prescription program” is being launched in eastern Iowa’s Johnson County to help treat conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure with fresh produce and dietary changes.
University of Iowa medical student Joyce Wahba says participants will get individualized health screenings to track how regular doses of fresh vegetables impact their conditions.
“If we can show long-term that if we’re able to control their diseases with something as simple as a diet, that’ll be less health care dollars spent on medications, less health care dollars spent on ER visits, if they have an exacerbation of one of these diseases,” Wahba says. “So the benefits can be really huge if we can show that there’s a simple solution to this all.”
The program is a joint effort between food pantries, the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and local farmers. Wahba says the program will help bridge gaps between providers and patients.
“The disconnect is, do patients actually have the means of accessing fresh fruits and vegetables? Do they have the means to actually take time out of their day and go run or do physical activity?” she says. “These are the things that are much harder to address, especially when you talk about lower socio-economic status for these individuals.”
About 40 clients of the Coralville and North Liberty food pantries were screened for the pilot program this fall, with the goal of prescribing veggies starting in April. Organizers hope to expand the program over time.
(Thanks to Kate Payne, Iowa Public Radio)