We struggle in this country with providing health care to all of our citizens. The debate rages on about how to do this affordably , effectively, and fairly so that everyone benefits from the medications, provider services, and medical diagnostic testing and treatments that exist in the year 2017 to treat and cure illness. Yet, this access to health care is all for naught if access to healthy affordable food does not co- exist or exists for only some. When where one lives geographically determines the availability and access to fresh food, we are not serving our population effectively or fairly, regardless of the available health care in the area. Poor access to healthy fresh food knows no boundaries, and can exist in rural counties of West Virginia as well as urban areas of New York and Chicago. The fact is that food deserts exist, and exist abundantly all over the United States. In West Virginia food deserts exist in 40 counties. They are defined as communities with at least 20% of the residents below the poverty line and 33% living over a mile from a supermarket in urban areas or 10 miles in rural areas. Approximately 23.5 million Americans live in food deserts, including vast rural areas of West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky as well as urban areas like Detroit, Chicago, and New York City.
Chronic diseases like Type II Diabetes, Heart Disease, High Blood Pressure, and Obesity are best prevented and/or treated with a healthy diet. Best medical practice dictates that a diet high in plants and lower in fat, salt and sugar is the initial step in prevention and treatment of these diseases. A healthy diet is recommended or should be recommended by all physicians and practitioners as FIRST LINE treatment and prevention of these chronic diseases. A healthy diet can promote weight loss, lower blood sugar levels, and help prevent coronary artery disease. Healthy food is medicine, and should be promoted as such to patients in order to make an impact on their comprehension of the benefits of consuming a healthy diet.
But ACCESS to healthy food has to exist before patients can follow through with the recommendations made by their practitioners. And for a significant patient population in West Virginia the truth of the matter is that little to no access exists. This, then, is the conundrum of the access to health care without at least the access to the initial prevention and treatment of the disease. As these diseases progress medication will need to be added to help control symptoms and disease progression, but throughout the course of the patient’s life a healthy diet should continue to be the mainstay of the treatment of their disease. Too often, patients think that because they are on medication to treat their chronic disease, that they do not have to eat a healthy diet. That is just not true…remember Healthy Food is Medicine and should be continued throughout the course of a lifetime!
FARMacy WV was developed to help provide access to healthy produce in the state by connecting practitioners and patients to growers and farmers locally, and by providing the education to help patients understand how healthy food really does prevent and treat disease. The goal of FARMacy WV is to help improve the health of all West Virginians by providing the resources for success.