The Doctor is in: Prescription Veggies Get at the Root of the Problem

Dr. Katy BrownDiabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity are things that Dr. Katy Brown works with daily, and are all problems that can be aided by whole foods.
I talked with Dr. Brown recently, reflecting on our first season of prescription veggies.

“But many of my patients simply can’t afford it,” says Dr. Brown. “Some don’t know what to do with it.”

Dr. Brown, who works with the Providence Endocrinology, Diabetes and Nutrition Center, was searching for alternatives and incentives for her patients as she helped them lose weight or regulate blood sugar.  She had read about a program for prescription produce being piloted in New York City and thought – why not here in Missoula?

As a doctor, helping patients change their lifestyle is a much harder bargain than prescribing a pill. She is always looking for ways to teach healthy lifestyle choices – like diet and exercise. When she and Garden City Harvest’s Laurie Bridgeman came up with the idea of doing this program in Missoula, she was thrilled.

“It is something that they can do every week for their care,” Dr. Brown said. The most innovative diabetes medications are very expensive.  Nutrition and exercise can help maintain and even improve these diseases.  Produce as a medication is a “win every time.”

Around 20% of the patients Dr. Brown works with qualify for prescription produce. She takes a direct approach when she talks to her patients – if they aren’t eating enough fresh food, she asks if one of the reasons is cost. When they find out they can get a scrip for their veggies, coming by Garden City Harvest’s farm stand each week – they are pretty excited.

“It is first surprise,” Dr. Brown says about their reaction. “Then it is ‘wow that is really exciting. And if this is something that you are recommending for me then I will make an effort to be there and do this.’ “

There is room for a great deal of growth in this program – this is only its first year. Dr. Brown is a specialist, and thus sees patients that are further down the road of care – they’ve been referred to her by a general practitioner – a family doctor or Internal Medicine doctor – for more specialized care. This program could expand to catch folks before they get to the point of needing that specialized care. With so many of the medical issues Dr. Brown works with, “prescription produce gets to the root of the problem.”

It is a powerful program, and with your help, it will grow. Can you help us provide programs like this by contributing to our work today?