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Posts Tagged ‘boston medical center’

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Photo: Matthew Morris
Boston Medical Center’s rooftop farm, spanning 2,658 square feet, is part of a mission to keep patients, especially low-income patients, healthy. 

For many years, visionary physicians and staff at Boston Medical Center (BMC) have been taking a holistic approach to caring for patients — more often than not, desperately poor patients. If a child had asthma from conditions in a suboptimal apartment, BMC enlisted pro bono lawyers to get the landlord to meet legal obligations. If new Americans needed help understanding the forms they were supposed to fill out, BMC rounded up translators and guides. It didn’t have to be medical forms: people could get help with any kind of form.

The story below shows BMC’s ongoing efforts to ensure patients living in food deserts get decent nourishment. Doctors started writing prescriptions for farmers markets. Now they’re supporting a move to grow healthful food on the hospital’s roof.

Lindsay Campbell has the story at Modern Farmer.

“Carrie Golden believes the only reason she’s diabetes free is that she has access to fresh, locally grown food.

“A few years after the Boston resident was diagnosed with prediabetes, she was referred to Boston Medical Center’s Preventative Food Pantry as someone who was food insecure. The food pantry is a free food resource for low-income patients.

“ ‘You become diabetic because when you don’t have good food to eat, you eat whatever you can to survive,’ Golden says. …

“Three years ago, the hospital launched a rooftop farm to grow fresh produce for the pantry. The farm has produced 6,000 pounds of food a year, with 3,500 pounds slated for the pantry. The rest of its produce goes to the hospital’s cafeteria, patients, a teaching kitchen and an in-house portable farmers market. … The facility’s 2,658-square-foot garden houses more than 25 crops, organically grown in a milk crate system.

“ ‘Food is medicine. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing,’ says David Maffeo, the hospital’s senior director of support services. ‘Most urban environments are food deserts. It’s hard to get locally grown food and I think it’s something that we owe to our patients and our community.’

“Lindsay Allen, a farmer who has been managing the rooftop oasis since its inception, says her farm’s produce is being used for preventative care as well as in reactive care. … What people put in their bodies has a direct link to their health she says, adding that hospitals have a responsibility to give their patients better food. …

“In addition to running the farm, Allen teaches a number of farming workshops to educate patients, employees and their families on how to grow their own food. The hospital’s teaching kitchen employs a number of food technicians and dieticians who offer their expertise to patients on how they can make meals with the local produce they’re given.

“This is part of the medical center’s objective to not only give patients good food, but also provide them the tools to lead a healthy life. Golden, who has used the pantry for the last three years, says the experience has changed the way she looks at food.

“ ‘I’ve gone many days with nothing to eat, so I know what that feels like when you get something like the food pantry that gives you what you need to stay healthy,’ she says. ‘I appreciate all the people that put their heart into working in the garden. If only they knew how we really need them.’ ” Perhaps they do.

More at Modern Farmer.

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Boston Medical Center is an inner-city hospital that takes a special interest in immigrants and the poor. It also treats patients holistically, offering a referral service for problems that get in the way of good health.

With the support of the City of Boston, Boston Medical Center has added a new item to its medicine cabinet: bike sharing.

Catalina Gaitan writes at the Boston Globe, “The City of Boston has announced a program to subsidize bike-sharing memberships for low-income residents, in partnership with Boston Medical Center.

“The program, ‘Prescribe-a-Bike,’ would allow doctors at Boston Medical Center to prescribe low-income patients with a yearlong membership to Hubway, a bike-share program, for only $5.

“Participants would be allowed unlimited number of trips on the bicycles, provided they use them for 30 minutes or less at a time. They will also be given a free helmet, the mayor’s office said in a joint statement with Boston Medical Center.

“ ‘Obesity is a significant and growing health concern for our city, particularly among low-income Boston residents,’ said Kate Walsh, chief executive of Boston Medical Center, in the statement. …

“Statistics show that 1 in 4 low-income residents in Boston is obese, almost twice the rate of higher-income residents, the statement said.

“To qualify for the prescription, participants must be 16 years or older and be enrolled in some form of public assistance, or have a household income of no more than four times the poverty level.”

More here.

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The Boston Medical Center, whose patients are mostly poor, has been a pathbreaker in treating the whole person. Its volunteers and staff help patients find services for life issues that may be exacerbating health problems. BMC works with lawyers to get landlords to make building-code-required changes that affect asthma and other conditions.

Now it is doing an experiment with yoga.

On Monday, the Boston Globe wrote, a “yoga class, held in a Boston Medical Center lobby for staff and patients, features postures vetted for people with back pain. It was a prototype for an ongoing study exploring the use of yoga in the city’s poorer neighborhoods.

“A survey of 5,050 people who practice yoga, conducted for Yoga Journal in 2008, found that 44 percent — almost half — reported annual incomes of $75,000 or more, and 24 percent said their income was higher than $100,000. Chronic low-back pain annually affects between 5 and 10 percent of all income levels of the population …

“Because many yoga postures stretch and strengthen the muscles affecting the back, at least 10 published studies have been done on yoga and chronic low-back pain, says [BMC’s Dr. Robert B.] Saper. But though the majority have shown yoga to be promising as a low-cost treatment, all have been done on predominantly white, educated, affluent populations, he says.

“ ‘In our patient population, it’s unusual to have back pain alone as a single problem,’ Saper says, noting that many patients also suffer from hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, and anxiety. And while he emphasizes that he doesn’t consider yoga a ‘panacea for everything,’ he says that ‘because of the mind-body component of yoga, we’re aware that [it] may be helpful for a variety of patients with co-morbidities. And that it may help with depression, anxiety, and resilience.’ …

“The yoga group received one 75-minute class each week that included postures, deep breathing, and meditation. They were also given an instructional CD and equipment to practice 30 minutes a day at home. After 12 weeks, the yoga group reported one-third less pain and an 80 percent decrease in pain medications. The control group reported a decrease in pain of 5 percent and no change in medication use.”

Read more here.

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