WACO, Texas (KWTX) Patients with hypertension and diabetes are typically prescribed medication, but doctors at three clinics in Waco are also writing prescriptions for fresh produce and exercise.
They subscribe to the "Food is Medicine" and "Exercise is Medicine" movements now sweeping the country.
Dr. Kelsey Richardson, a third year resident at Family Health Center, said she has prescribed produce for some of her patients who need it medically, but can’t afford it.
"We'll bring it up when we're talking about obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. ‘Hey how's your diet? So you're really not getting fruits and vegetables. Why is that? Is it hard for you to get to a grocery store? Is it hard for you to afford them?’”
“If either of them are true, then yes, we can absolutely offer this produce prescription and it prints out. I sign it."
The patient then comes back to one of three clinics on a designated day and picks up a box the size of a half bushel and it's packed like with the season's fresh vegetables and a card that explains what they are and how to prepare them.
There are also cooking classes to demonstrate how to prepare healthy meals.
A multi-million dollar grant and help from several local organizations such as World Hunger Relief and Baylor University make this program possible.
Patrick Lillard, CEO of World Hunger Relief, said his volunteers are getting ready to plant the next batch of crops.
Patients can expect to see tomatoes, okra, peppers, leafy greens, radishes, carrots, beets, and turnips in their boxes.
"We're not going to make a difference in three months’ time. In some ways it's getting people used to eating vegetables and feeling more comfortable doing it. At the same time, the Family Health Center can look at the impact they've had on patients several years down."
Doctors are also prescribing exercise.
At the Madison Cooper Building at 1601 Providence Dr., patients can work out for free on new equipment with Baylor Physical Therapy students coaching them.
Dr. Rachel Rube, a third year resident at Family Health Center, said she enjoys writing prescriptions for exercise.
She said she even asks patients to give it a try a few times in the office to make sure they are doing it correctly.
Besides helping improve a patient’s physical health, Rube said it has help one of her patients struggling with a mental health issue such as depression.
"We talked about this prescription as part of her care and it opened her eyes that there are multiple modalities that we can use in order to target any medical process. That exercise is not only helpful in your physical health but it's also helpful in your mental health. After six months of regular exercise she came back to me and said that her mood had elevated. She felt better about her body. She had better relationships with her family because she had better trust in herself and others around her, and it really was just a joy to see that."
Many patients have children they care for.
The hope is to also teach them, by example, how to lead healthy lifestyle.
Food prescriptions can be filled at the Family Health Clinic at 1600 Providence Dr., 1911 North MLK Blvd., and 1800 Gurley Lane.