The Produce Prescription Program (PRx) is Produce Perks Midwest’s newest effort towards improving the health of underserved regions by increasing affordable access to healthy foods. Funded through a grant from Interact for Health, PRx supports families impacted by food insecurity and nutrition-related disease. There is a desperate need for improvement in nutrition and food insecurity issues across the state, as according to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio, Ohio ranks 46th on Health Value, which is a measure of population health outcomes compared to healthcare spending. In other words, Ohioans are living less healthy lives and spending more on healthcare. So how do we fight these prevailing health issues in our communities? The PRx program combats these issues by working with healthcare providers in a clinical setting and implementing prescription programming, which is an evidence-based model recognized at the federal level. By addressing improvements in the three key component areas of health metrics, food insecurity, and food literacy, the PRx program helps eliminate barriers to healthier living and a better quality of life for Ohioans.

During the 2018 pilot, which was implemented in partnership with the Cincinnati Health Department, 28 pediatric participants and their families (147 individuals) were given a prescription in order to help them meet their recommended daily fruit and vegetable serving intake, and initial results were encouraging. This pilot ran from June-November in order to coincide with the farmers market season in Cincinnati, and by the end of it, numerous healthy trends had emerged. 78% of the children remained in the same or lower BMI percentile, and 47% decreased their A1C. Due to the increase in produce consumption, many of the individuals who participated in the program reported a decrease in consumption of unhealthy drinks. Twelve students even stated that they had completely eliminated their consumption of sugary drinks by the end of the program. To increase food literacy, there was a nutrition education component which involved distributing reading materials to the families upon their provider visits, and 29% of patients reported increased ability to prepare healthy food. There was also a chef-led class providing a hands-on learning environment where the 17 patient families who chose to attend learned three different cooking methods for vegetables before all preparing a salad and a vinaigrette highlighting seasonal vegetables.

This was just the beginning, as PRx has more great plans for 2019. In a partnership with Mercy Health, PRx will be expanding within Cincinnati Public School Based Health Centers (SBHC), including the Sayler Park SBHC, which will serve as a PRx site with a dual program for pediatric and geriatric patients. In Dayton, PRx has partnered with the Five Rivers Health Centers to implement a PRx plan for a group of diabetic patient-families. And in partnership with Stark County Health Department’s CHC Program, PRx will be working with Aultman Hospital in order to implement a PRx program in Canton, Ohio.