A Prescription for Health!

Doctors in Ohio are now prescribing fresh fruits and vegetables to their patients! Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Programs (FVRx) have been developed across the country with support from Wholesome Wave, a national non-profit focusing on access to and affordability of healthy, local foods in underserved communities. Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Programs are innovative solutions to treating and preventing chronic diet-related disease. These programs aim to connect individuals with diet-related illnesses to healthcare providers and farmers’ markets. The goal: to increase fruit and vegetable consumption, particularly in underserved communities, via access to such foods and the necessary financial support.

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Image credit: www.wholesomewave.org/

Produce Prescription (PRx) is a Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program in Cuyahoga County that is implemented through a broad collaboration; participants include Ohio State University Extension-Cuyahoga County, the Prevention Research Center for Healthy Neighborhoods (PRCHN) at Case Western Reserve University, and the Cuyahoga County Board of Health. Produce Prescription (PRx) in Cuyahoga County now focuses on two populations. PRx was piloted in 2014 to support expectant or new mothers (PRx Moms) and increase healthy birth outcomes. The program was expanded in 2015 to include individuals with hypertension (PRx HTN). In 2016, PRx Moms will serve 200 expectant or new moms, and PRx HTN will serve up to 450 individuals.

How it works:

  1. New or expectant mothers or individuals with hypertension are enrolled by their primary care provider as PRx participants.
  2. A primary care provider meets with participants each month to reinforce the importance of healthy eating and evaluate the patients’ nutrition goals.
  3. The provider distributes PRx vouchers worth $40 to patients during each monthly visit, assesses fruit and vegetable consumption, and tracks health outcomes.
  4. PRx vouchers are redeemed for fresh fruits and vegetables by participants at participating farmers’ markets in Cuyahoga County.
  5. Participants return to their health care provider each month to monitor goals for healthy eating and receive their monthly PRx vouchers throughout the duration of the program.

PRx programming in Cuyahoga County has had profound impacts on both public health and small to mid-sized farmers. In 2015, participants enrolled in PRx HTN increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables by nearly one serving for each and patients reported fewer weekly fast food restaurant visits. In addition, 79% of participants reported trying a new fruit or vegetable. Analysis for the 2015 PRx Moms program is still being conducted. The majority of PRx vouchers in Cuyahoga County are redeemed at 5 of the 29 participating farmers’ market locations. In 2015, over $24,000 worth of PRx vouchers were redeemed at farmers’ markets in Cuyahoga County, significantly benefiting small to mid-sized farms. PRx programming also serves as an education tool for helping Ohio Direction Card recipients learn how to stretch their SNAP dollars at farmers’ markets through the Produce Perks SNAP incentive program.

To learn more about developing a Fruit and Vegetable Prescription program, contact Amanda Osborne, County Extension Educator, Cuyahoga County & Western Reserve EERA, at osborne.414@osu.edu or 216-429-8200 ext. 212.

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