Colorado is the only state in the US with an adult obesity rate below 20%, but we’re just barely below that threshold. And according to the Colorado Health Report Card, our rate of obesity is rising faster than the rate for the whole country. I came across a NY Times article about a program that has been implemented in Mass recently, and I would love to see Colorado do the same thing. Maybe we could see our obesity percentage start to fall instead of continuing it’s upward climb.
The idea behind the program is to reduce childhood obesity in low income families by giving patients vouchers (worth $1/day for each family member) that can be redeemed for fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets. One of the biggest obstacles preventing low income families from eating produce is the cost – it’s a lot less expensive to eat from a fast food value menu than it is to shop for fresh produce. So a program that subsidizes the cost of produce is likely to make it easier for families to add fresh veggies and fruit to their meals.
WIC is funded by tax dollars, but the prescription veggie pilot program is being funded mostly by a charity organization. It will be interesting to see if the program has any long-term effects for the families who are currently enrolled, and how they do over the winter when farmers’ markets are closed and the vouchers aren’t available. If it goes well, I can see similar programs being adopted in the rest of the country. Funding could be both public (like WIC) and private (maybe donations from organizations in the health care industry like hospitals and health insurance carriers).
I love the idea of making nutritious food more available to people who might otherwise be unable to afford it. And I also like the fact that doctors are getting actively involved in their patients’ diets. Hopefully this will have an impact on our obesity trend, and reduce the healthcare costs associated with obesity.