Interdisciplinary partnership improves health outcomes in Oconee County

Six months into coordinating a produce prescription program at the Clemson Health Clinic at Walhalla, Brooke Brittain, registered dietitian and associate director for food and nutrition security at Clemson Rural Health in the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences at Clemson University, ran into the best kind of problem for a public health intervention. There were more participants interested in improving their health than the Clinic staff could manage.

Brittain began the program VeggieRx through a partnership with FoodShare and Feed and Seed, a Greenville based food hub. As part of the program, patients at the Clemson Health Clinic at Walhalla with certain health markers are eligible to receive two free produce boxes each month. Clinical measures such as blood sugar (A1C), height, weight, blood pressure and body mass index (BMI) are taken before each patient’s first box and again at the conclusion of the six-month program. The boxes come with a variety of local, in-season fruits and vegetables along with recipe cards relevant to the contents of the box. Once a month, Brittain provides a cooking demonstration and nutrition class to participants that covers everything from reading a nutrition label to building a healthy plate.

Located in Oconee County, a large portion of patients at the Clemson Health Clinic at Walhalla speak Spanish. This requires bilingual providers or translators to play a key role in each piece of the VeggieRx program – and as program demand increased, so did the need for translators. Luckily, a faculty member in the College of Arts and Humanities found a way to meet the demand.

When Magdalena Matuskova, assistant professor in the Department of Languages, described the VeggieRx program to students in her medical interpreting and translating service-learning class – a class that connects students with local programs to volunteer and practice speaking Spanish – Emma Black, a junior in the Department of Public Health Sciences, was immediately interested in the opportunity to serve in a local community and practice Spanish in a clinical setting.

Seeing how greater access to health resources can change a person’s life has increased my interest in patient care and health care at large, said Black. This opportunity has made me realize just how excited I am to apply to medical schools later this year. I plan to take the lessons I have learned working in the Clemson Rural Health Clinic into my career, as I hope to become a great physician someday.

Clemson students working with VeggieRx are involved in every step of the comprehensive nutrition program. They begin by making sure the recipes included in each food box are translated into Spanish. These recipes are compiled into a cookbook that Brittain will be able to use with clients for years to come. They also assist with reminder calls, determining barriers to care and interpreting cooking demonstrations and nutrition presentations – providing much needed support for the Clemson Rural Health staff.

With this new interdepartmental partnership, Clemson Rural Health is making positive steps toward each of its three objectives: reducing premature mortality, reducing preventable hospitalizations and building the future rural health workforce. Through Matuskova’s course, students like Black will continue to provide hands-on support to the Spanish speaking community living in and around Clemson, South Carolina.

Clemson Rural Health, a part of Clemson University’s College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences, provides high quality primary care services through the Clemson Health Clinic at Walhalla. Located in downtown at 200 Booker Drive, the primary care clinic accepts most forms of health insurance and boasts a multidisciplinary team ready to manage acute and chronic conditions. Appointments are available by calling 864-656-3076.

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