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NYC Hospitals Offering Veggie and Fruit Prescriptions

Update Date: Jul 24, 2013 12:03 PM EDT

New York is a state that is willing to try almost any new and creative initiative to control the obesity pandemic, as well as several other health issues, such as smoking and drinking. Just some of these initiatives have included completely changing up school lunches and trying to ban cup sizes for sugary beverages. In its latest attempt to help promote a healthier lifestyle, two New York City hospitals have started a new program where people from low-income families can get prescriptions for fruits and vegetables.

This new program, the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program (FVRx) was announced early Tuesday morning. This program will start at two locations, the Lincoln Medical Center in the Bronx and Harlem Hospital in Manhattan. Doctors at these two facilities will now be able to prescribe vegetable and fruit coupons to patients who are overweight, obese, or at risk for these two weight complications.

"This is probably going to prevent an awful lot of disease in the long term than the medicines we tend to write prescriptions for," commented Thomas Farley, the New York Health Commissioner according to the New York Daily News. Based on the statistics provided by Farley, around one in 10 New Yorkers do not eat fruits or vegetables every day. The rate jumps to five in 10 New Yorkers in the Bronx.

The prescription is similar to a food coupon. Doctors can prescribe 'Health Bucks,' which are worth two dollars that can be used at 142 farmers market locations throughout the city. During this program, the doctors will monitor weight and body mass index (BMI) over the course of four months.

"Each dollar invested in Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program nourishes public hospital patients and their families, boosts revenue a farmers markets, and supports overall community health," the Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs stated according to the Gothamist. "Farmers markets support the City's efforts to keep communities fit by providing healthy and affordable dietary options in a localized setting."

The program was created by a Connecticut based group called Wholesome Wave, which is a nonprofit organization that helps low-income people access local and fresh produce. This pilot program will target at risk youth groups from low-income families. Getting young children to start eating vegetables and fruits could help trim waistlines early on and prevent obesity from lasting through to adulthood. Researchers have found that the longer a person is obese, the more likely the person will suffer from coronary disease.

"Kids usually kind of dread coming to the doctor to talk about their obesity," Dr. Katherine Szema, the chief of pediatrics at Lincoln Medical Center said. "But this [program] is a positive thing. They look forward to it."

There are around 140 patients in this new program. If the pilot works in both hospitals, the city would consider expanding it to other low-income neighborhoods. 

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