The best way to take care of our communities is to focus on community wellness and primary prevention.
Primary prevention means using strategies to help people stay healthy and avoid developing medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease. Primary prevention also means addressing obesity, smoking, and poor diet – before they cause complications. In medicine, we have long been focused on tertiary prevention, which means we try to avoid complications once a disease occurs. For example, we put patients with heart disease on cholesterol medication to try to avoid another heart attack. All of our primary care practices at the University of Vermont Medical Center have become Patient Centered Medical Homes with secondary prevention in mind. We want to help folks with pre-diabetes improve their diet and avoid developing diabetes. However, if we want a healthier population and more affordable health care, we need to start earlier!
How are we moving toward primary prevention?
Health Shares. This year, we used a grant from TD Bank to distribute CSA Farm Shares to 25 patients over 12 weeks. We collaborated with the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps Farm, whose mission is to break cost barriers to provide healthy local food to all Vermonters. We added weekly food demonstrations with recipes that included vegetables from the shares. This project radically changed several patients’ lives by providing the resources, encouragement, and motivation they needed to improve their diets.
Wellness Stand at Colchester Farmer’s Market. We presented 12 wellness topics at our local farmer’s market through partnerships with community members including our practice, the UVM Medical Center Nutrition Services, and the Colchester Police, Rescue, Library and many more. Topics included mindfulness, food demos, passenger safety, and bike helmet giveaways.
Food Demos. We believe in helping patients by letting them try great, healthy recipes right in our very own office and giving the recipes for them to take home and try themselves. We provided mindful eating demos, ideas for eating more kale, meal ideas and much more. We look forward to making these regular events in our office (staffed by a wonderful, committed volunteer!).
Community Wellness Fair. We routinely show our commitment to our community by collaborating with other community members on wellness projects. We just held our first highly successful Community Wellness Fair in collaboration with the Colchester School District. We had multiple community members doing functional assessments, posture checks, diabetes and oral health screenings, mindfulness in daily practice, and more. The School District served more than 200 free meals at our Harvest Dinner.
Other projects have included our Waiting Room Wellness projects, which includes waiting exercises, displays on a Healthy Plate and Added Sugars in common foods, using our Community Health Teams to review healthy eating and debunk myths, such as corn being a vegetable (it is a grain) and our own staff and provider wellness collaboration which includes a book club, lunch time exercises and fun food events like AppleFest.
And what are our next steps?
Wellness Grants. We have received two grants from the UVM Medical Center’s own Community Benefits Program to fund both an After School Mindfulness and Boys After School Activity and Team Building program.
Community Wellness Collaboration. We continue to reach out to our community ties in our continual efforts in ‘Aiming for Wellness’.
Alicia Jacobs, MD, family medicine physician, is Vice Chair of Clinical Operations in Family Medicine at The University of Vermont Medical Center. She is also practices at Family Medicine Colchester.