True, progressive health care...hat's off to Kaiser Permanente!
In 2003 Dr. Preston Maring started Kaiser Permanente's first weekly farmer's market just outside the front doors of his Oakland, CA hospital with a line of stalls where fresh fruits and vegetables are sold to hospital workers, passers-by and even those bringing patients to the emergency room.
A New York Times article reports: If there was ever a time when doctors need to be as handy with a peeling knife as they are with a scalpel, this may be it.
The federal government’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines identifies obesity as the nation’s greatest public-health threat. It also notes the relationship of fast food (and physical inactivity) to unhealthy weight gain and emphasizes the importance of plant-based foods in the diet.
Dr. Maring believes doctor's need to begin playing an active role in creating awareness of healthy food choices (finally!) The NY Times mag. reports that for many doctors, an uneasy relationship with nutrition starts as early as medical school. Long hours and ready access to fast food, often on the hospital grounds, tends to undermine students’ best dietary intentions. Dr. Robert F. Kushner, a professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, where he directs the Center for Lifestyle Medicine, is quoted saying: “Even the ones who come in excited about eating well and exercise find that good habits are harder and harder to maintain as time goes on.”
Dr. Maring's son, Ben, is a fourth year medical student at New York University School of Medicine. He is trying to change this unfortunate reality by developing a series of cooking classes for fellow medical students that incorporate salient aspects of nutrition and clinical medicine. He named his scheme CHEF — for Cook Healthy, Eat Fresh. “I thought it was important for medical students to learn how to cook and eat well,” he said. “I also thought it was important for us to walk the walk when it comes to counseling patients about the importance of diet. We get so little training in nutrition that I wanted to provide some basic knowledge.”
Please take 3 minutes to watch this short informative video. THIS is what our health care system needs to embrace as a whole. Dr. Maring explains the very important relationship between the food we need to eat and our very important local, small farmers.
Dr. Maring began a Web site and blog that offers recipes and advice on meal planning and budgeting.
Kaiser Permanente is a provider and an insurer and is the largest nonprofit health care system in the U.S. with about 8 million members, 15,000 doctors and 170,000 employees, mainly in western states. The sheer scale of Kaiser, which holds farmers’ markets at 30 sites now, makes changing the way food is bought a great opportunity for making needed change.
“We can leverage our size to create greater demand for healthy food,” Dr. Maring said. Kaiser Permanente Oakland, for example, serves 6,000 inpatient meals a day, 80 percent of which have no special restrictions.
“It’s difficult for farmers to crack the institutional supply chain,” he said. “We need a ‘universal adapter’ that can pair small producers with big customers.” Toward that end, he helped start a regional growers’ cooperative and joined the board of the nonprofit entity that administers it, the Community Alliance With Family Farmers.
Support companies like Kaiser and farmers' markets everywhere...In this way we can each become part of the change today, to secure a future we desperately need.