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4 Ways to Engage with Patients, Nutritionally

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, October 3, 2012

1.Improve disease management

Saint Anne's Hospital in Fall River, MA, is piloting an innovative approach to farmers'  markets by “prescribing” at-risk patients fruits and vegetables that they can fill–for free–at the hospital's weekly market, which is held outside its main entrance.

The program targets those who have or are at risk for developing diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and coronary heart disease.

The program will initially focus on patients age 65 and older who suffer from two or more of the specified diagnoses and demonstrate that they will adhere to their doctor's health care plan.

In addition to obtaining healthful food at the farmers' market, these patients will also be required to work with a hospital dietician and visit their doctor on a monthly basis. Through the program, up to four family members are also eligible to receive one free serving of fruits and vegetables a day.

“We really want to decrease hospital utilization, so it's about focusing on keeping people and their families healthy,” Susan Oldrid, the program coordinator, told a local paper. “For this to be a success for our patients, we need to provide a lot of support, and it has to be ongoing.”

This is the most inventive, and potentially the most effective, use of a hospital-sponsored farmers' market that I've seen. It's thinking like this that will set an organization's brand and outcomes apart from its competitors.

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