Sunday, December 24, 2017

Food on Prescription

Doctors are to begin prescribing food to patients as part of a drive to tackle the hunger and malnutrition suffered by people living in poverty. Vouchers for fruit and vegetables will be offered by GPs.

Dr Michael Dixon, explains, “Our role does extend beyond drugs and procedures,” he said. “We should be making sure people are properly fed, safe and have houses that aren’t damp."

The Department of Health, with NHS England and Public Health England, has made £4m available to encourage third party and voluntary organisations to set up social prescribing programmes, in part, to reduce pressure on overstretched NHS services.
Three GP practices in Lambeth, south London, will launch a pilot scheme next year to offer food vouchers on prescription, while other schemes combatting issues like loneliness, obesity and stress already offer patients referrals to gardening clubs or cooking lessons. The scheme in Lambeth, which will be funded by the Alexandra Rose charity, will allow doctors to issue physical scripts to patients to the value of £1 that can be redeemed at market stalls in the local area.
Rosie Oglesby, national director of food poverty charity Feeding Britain, said, “Malnutrition is a huge issue. Interventions like social prescribing can help to tackle the problem earlier on, and prevent people ending up in desperate situations,” she said. “Tackling hunger and malnutrition is not just about making sure people have full stomachs, but about making sure they can eat well and get the nutrition they need.”
The Alexandra Rose charity's, chief executive Jonathan Pauling said it responds to a growing need in an increasingly “harsh” food economy.
“The reality is food prices are going up and up, wages and benefits have been stagnant for a long time and families are struggling day by day,” he said.
“It’s completely understandable why families might be eating food that isn’t as healthy as you would hope. It’s easy to access, it’s cheap – in some parts of the country there are food deserts and access to fresh fruit and vegetables just isn’t really there.”
 Sam Everington is a GP in Tower Hamlets in London and a founder of Bromley by Bow Centre which works with more than 100 social prescribing schemes, including those offering cooking classes and education on healthy eating to children. He has seen firsthand the impact of malnutrition and said social prescribing schemes could tackle the root causes.
“A lot of our kids are malnourished in Tower Hamlets, and Vitamin D deficient. Some estimates put it as high as 50 per cent,” he said. 

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