Lifestyle Rx aims to increase access to healthy foods in Northwest Arkansas

Walmart Foundation and the American Heart Association on Wednesday announced the Healthy Hearts NWA Lifestyle Rx initiative designed to increase student and family access to healthy foods.

The Nutrition Prescription program will be implemented by the Saint Francis Community Clinic and three school clinics at the Panther Health and Wellness Clinic in Siloam Springs, and Jones Elementary School and Parson Hills Elementary School in Springdale, according to a press release.

Serena Mons, vice president of strategic relations for the American Heart Association, said the program aims to reach 1,500 families — 500 in each school clinic.

Mons said the association has worked collaboratively with the Community Clinic to address nutrition and lifestyle change, one of the areas of greatest need. She said one in eight people in Northwest Arkansas is affected by food insecurity.

She said Lifestyle Rx addresses everything from high blood pressure to food security and provides employee assistance, access to healthy fruits and vegetables, and physical activity recommendations.

Funding for the initiative comes from a $250,000 Walmart Foundation grant, according to the statement.

The community clinic provides health care to 41,000 people in northwest Arkansas, said Amanda Eshgwen, chief operating officer. She said that as part of the clinic’s efforts to address the social determinants of health, the clinic offers case management, diabetes education, nutrition education, and patient advocacy in English, Spanish and Marshall.

She said the partnership with the American Heart Association provides the clinic with the tangible tools to do this work.

Echigwen said the eight school facilities at Community Clinic are designed to serve students and staff but are open to the entire community. The clinics’ goal is to reduce lost school hours and reduce the time parents are absent from work to take children to appointments.

Stephanie Mendoza, a registered advanced practice nurse at Parson Hills Elementary School, said health care providers at the three participating school clinics will identify patients who will benefit from the program and write a prescription for nutrition and exercise.

“This gives them something physical to take home with recommendations for them to live a healthier lifestyle,” she said.

Patients will also receive a voucher for locally sourced products, brochures with heart-healthy recipes, and will be in touch with a patient advocate who will provide information about the benefits of supplemental nutritional assistance and referrals to nutrition counseling, according to the release. All information will be provided in English, Spanish and Marshallese.

Mendoza said she expects the program to affect many of her patients by helping them avoid medications and keep their hearts healthy. For example, Mendoza said she often sees patients with borderline hypertension who are able to correct the problem with diet and exercise.

Clinics recommend Lifestyle RX for nearly every patient who walks through doors, Echigwen said.

“We believe that these dietary recommendations and recommendations regarding physical activity can serve patients really well for the prevention and management of persistent chronic disease,” Eichjoen said.

Photo Claudia Aguilar (top left), trainer from En Fuego Dance and Fitness, leads the audience in a dance workout Wednesday, December 15, 2021, at a press event to launch Healthy Hearts NWA – Lifestyle Rx, a nutrition prescription program, at the Nonprofit Center in JTL Stores in Springdale. The initiative, in partnership with Walmart Foundation and the American Heart Association, will be implemented by the St. Francis Community Clinic and three school clinics at the Panther Health and Wellness Clinic in Selwam Springs, Jones Elementary School and Parsons Hills Elementary School in Springdale. Go to nwaonline.com/211216Daily/ to see more photos. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Hank Layton)

fast fact

One in eight people in Northwest Arkansas lives in a home that is food insecure; Only 69% of eligible staff participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Source: Healthy Hearts NWA Lifestyle Rx

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