The days of your doctor reaching for his prescription pad may be over. New York’s Deputy Mayor and Health Commissioner launched a new program to help the city’s increasing number of overweight and obese individuals, called the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program, which allows doctors to actually prescribe fruits and vegetables “health bucks” which are redeemable at farmer’s markets around the city.
The idea behind the program is to help make healthy foods more accessible, especially for low-income families who are more likely to eat unhealthy foods, and are at higher risk of developing obesity. Almost one-third of low-income children aged two to four years old were obese or overweight, according to the 2009 Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System survey. Obese children are more likely to suffer from grave health problems as they age: high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol—all risk factors for cardiovascular disease, the number one killer of Americans every year.
The new program hopes to encourage overweight and obese patients to include more healthy foods in their diet to combat the growing epidemic, instead of turning to diet pills, surgeries, or yo-yo diets.
“We’re not only teaching them just about eating healthy,” said Dr. Shefali Khanna, chief of pediatrics at Lincoln Medical Center in New York, one of the first facilities that participated in this program. “This is really an investment for the future and we hope we have a whole generation of kids who benefit from this and reaches adulthood at a healthy optimal weight.”
The program, which started in New York, has already expanded to seven states, and has been received very positively by doctors and patients alike.
This initiative is definitely one that more cities and doctors should be taking part in—but what’s more interesting is that it represents the fact that mainstream medical doctors, health facilities, and government institutions are recognizing that dietary changes, such as eating healthy foods, can truly change disease risk and outlook. And they’re choosing to make changes without advertising Big Pharma’s latest diet pill. They’re finally sending a message to the entire country: that the obesity epidemic can be fixed—and eating healthy foods should be the first step.
“Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program” Wholesome Wave web site; http://wholesomewave.org/fvrx/, last accessed September 12, 2013.
“Farmers Markets Become ‘Pharmacies’ in NYC,” WFUV web site, July 23, 2013; http://www.wfuv.org/news/news-politics/130723/farmers-markets-become-pharmacies-nyc, last accessed September 12, 2013.
“Obesity Among Low-Income Preschool Children,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site; http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/downloads/pednssfactsheet.pdf, last accessed September 12, 2013.