How do you make a difference in one zip code? Follow the example of Brockton Neighborhood Health Center (BNHC) in Massachusetts. The health center and Vicente’s Tropical Supermarket have teamed to open a new site on an abandoned property that had been vacant for 25 years. The new facility will “make a difference in our zip code and create an environment where people have a chance to be healthy,” according to Chief Executive Officer, Sue Joss.
The new health center site, which opened in September 2015, includes 27 exam rooms and can accommodate nearly 6700 patients a year in addition to the over 27,000 patients served at the center’s main site. People in the community are not only be able to access affordable primary care and social services, they are also be able to get healthy food and take cooking classes to learn how to eat healthy – a task that can be very challenging in poor neighborhoods where there are often “food deserts.”
“Health and medical care that we provide to patients really only accounts for 20 percent of their health,” said Joss, in an interview with the Boston Globe [see article] “The next 20 percent is genetics, and the remaining 60 percent is social determinants of health, which includes nutrition.”
The collaboration makes sense because both organizations are trusted stewards of the community. Vicente’s is a second-generation family business that specializes in tastes of Cape Verde and the Caribbean, and attracts many customers with Cape Verdean or Haitian backgrounds. BNHC has been providing much needed care since 1994 in this very ethnically diverse community where nearly one quarter of residents live in poverty.
With the diabetes rate growing among residents, BNHC and Vicente’s focus on strategies to encourage healthier eating, such as:
- The supermarket posts nutritional guidelines to help shoppers make healthy choices.
- BNHC’s community health workers take patients shopping to teach them to read labels and make healthier purchases.
- The health center operates a demonstration kitchen and offers cooking classes for patients and community residents so they can learn how to cook recipes with healthy ingredients.
- The health center and the supermarket are planning to implement a reward system to make healthy eating more affordable.
The alliance between Vicente’s and BNHC is not only a recipe for healthier patients, but is also creating a healthier local economy by creating jobs.
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