Bi-State Primary Care Association
- Project Title: Vermont Food Access in Health Care
- Program Representative Interviewed: Helen Labun, Food Access Manager
- Location: Bow, New Hampshire
Program Overview: With funding from the Health Resources & Services Administration, the
Bi-State Primary Care Association is implementing the Vermont Food Access in Health Care (FAHC) consortium
to better integrate food access with healthcare. This effort incorporates health literacy through several
focus areas. One focus area is building connections with organizations outside the healthcare sector to
improve health literacy of those organizations by delivering education on healthcare topics and on
navigating the role of food in health. A second focus area is addressing health literacy related to
understanding the role of food in health by improving communication between providers and patients on how to
manage and understand dietary changes based on health conditions. Healthcare providers are trained about
techniques that can help them effectively communicate about healthy dietary changes. This includes training
about different components of food and discussing concepts that providers may not often incorporate into
discussions about patient dietary changes, like the importance of food flavors and textures. While many
health providers have training in how to talk to patients about their personal health goals, fewer have
training in working with other factors like taste preferences and food culture.
FAHC is also working with the Vermont Food Bank and Hunger Free Vermont to use best practices for designing communication around food security and removing associated stigma. The program uses a care coordination model to address food insecurity and implements other evidence-based food interventions. Healthcare providers are also encouraged to use food prescriptions for patients to improve access to healthy foods and strengthen partnerships between FQHCs, local food producers, and local food retailers. As with the training on talking with patients about food preferences, these local connections help place food and health messages in the context of community and positive social engagement.
Bi-State is also partnering with the Vermont Food Access & Health Care Consortium on Policy in Plainer English, a podcast series that brings together food professionals and healthcare providers to discuss evidence-based models and best practices for making healthier dietary choices. This series attempts to make technical health information more accessible to listeners through a conversational podcast style. The podcast explains topics to community members to improve understanding, communication, and numeracy skills related to dietary changes needed for medical conditions. For example, they break down components of nutrition labels and prescription labels to help people understand and know how to use the information presented.