April 8, 2009

Health care: it’s more than medication

by Jeffrey Wankel, Community Health and Farm Outreach Coordinator.

Jeffrey meeting with a patient in the Medical Clinic.

Bread for the City provides food for the hungry and medical care for the sick. Thousands of people depend on us for this, but what happens when they leave the building?

Health care doesn’t just happen in a medical clinic. If done right it happens every day, as part of a lifestyle. And while medicine can help our clients fight back illness, good habits (in things like diet and physical activity) will help keep them healthy in the first place.

As the new Community Health Coordinator, I’m working to make Bread for the City a center for health knowledge in addition to medical care. From patient visits, to group sessions, to informative literature placed around the clinic and posted on our walls, Bread for the City makes education a priority.

We work with our clients to achieve a broader understanding of how daily choices directly affect our long term health and wellness. This includes specifics like learning how to avoid foods that cause heart disease, or the negative mental and physical effects of alcohol and tobacco. Already this year, thousands have read the material and hundreds have taken information home to share with their friends and families.

One patient I’ve worked with recently found out that she has high blood pressure, and I shared some of our fact sheets about the matter. She requested more information, and then asked for multiple copies – and by the end of our meeting, she walked away with five different brochures. Her whole family was going to make some dietary changes, she said, because she did not want her children to also end up with high blood pressure.

These are the kinds of outcomes that happen here every day. And we are starting to do more. As part of a new community health initiative, we are identifying leaders among our client community, and training them to be volunteer peer educators. Peer educators will take this critical information into their own communities, where they can spread the word even further. In underserved areas that lack the resources to obtain adequate care, peer-to-peer health education is a great way to raise awareness of preventive health. We’re excited to be spreading word about healthy lifestyles beyond our doors and into the community.

Jeffrey comes to Bread for the City through a partnership between the DCPCA and AmeriCorps.

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