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Diabetes Prescription Program Targets Nutrition

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media, August 19, 2010

"Oftentimes, people think they know what the good things are to eat, but they don't always. And even if they do know, it's amazing that the power of a prescription [will have]," says Carolyn Lopez, MD, the medical director of the Near North Service Corp.

She recalls that many years ago, she wrote patients a prescription for exercise. "That power of a prescription really sent a strong message to patients about what their job is. It's just as important as anything else."

Likewise, having a nutrition prescription not only is able to show people what they need to eat, but gives them addition tips and information. "I think it's a really neat part of all of this," she says.

To solve the problem of being in the food desert, you "first need to create the oasis, but the oasis has to be more than a mirage," she notes. This means having a handy source for patients to obtain the foods—and then making those products affordable—essentially competitive with the cheaper but high-calorie or fattier foods.

She doesn't rule out expanding the prescriptions in the near future to other conditions that would benefit from healthy eating—for instance, heart problems, hypertension, or kidney problems. "To start out, we thought we'd go with that population that really has a profound need so we're starting out with the adult diabetics," she says.

Eating healthy, though, could mean other changes—especially for the family of the diabetic patient. "The reality is that what happens to families tends not to be isolated with one individual," she notes.

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