Thursday, July 15, 2010

Healthy nutrition - need to ask about access

When you ask about nutrition - you need to ask about access to food.

During your third year as a medical student,  caring for people in the Philadelphia area, you quickly realize that obesity, hypertension and diabetes are the norm. Diet has a big impact on these health problems.

As clinicians we instruct our patients to eat a healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight. When we advise patients in this way we assume that they have access to healthy food. The fact is that many Philadelphians do not have access to fresh healthy food.

In fact the recently proposed Food Desert Oasis Act of 2009 named Philadelphia as one of 20 “Food Deserts” in the US. This means that many of the people who we care for do not have access to fresh food, they many not live within a walkable mile of a grocery store, and may not have transportation to grocery stores in other neighborhoods. This problem disproportionally affects lower income and minority neighborhoods.

So ask!
Before you advise someone to eat more fruits and vegetables ask,
  1. Where do you get your food?
  2. Do they sell fresh food where you shop?
  3. Is it quality and affordable fresh food?
  4. Do you have affordable transportation to a grocery store?
Want to learn more about fresh food access in your neighborhood? Check out the USDA interactive food atlas.

Blog submission Alethia Donahue MS4 WH Pathway class of 2011
Photo credits: Homegrown tomatoes Alethia Donahue 2009; Saharan Beetle Juice A. Núñez 2009

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