The Arkansas Rural Health Partnership (ARHP) recently received a Delta Health Care Services Grant Program award made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Funding is designed to support activities such as health education programs, health care services, job training in health care fields, and developing or expanding public health facilities throughout the Delta Region.
Many residents across the South Arkansas Delta experience daily challenges including poor infrastructure, poverty, unemployment, and lack of access to healthcare providers that negatively impact their quality of life and health outcomes. Younger residents looking for educational and economic opportunities often leave the Delta as the elder family members remain. This common scenario often leaves many seniors in the region even more vulnerable as they experience isolation, mobility constraints, and lack of access to needed healthcare, support, and enabling services (including healthy food for those with limited resources).
The proposed project, The Good Food Rx: South Arkansas Delta Pilot brings together economic development, healthcare, and education partners throughout the Delta to plan and launch two food distribution centers for seniors (age 65+) with chronic disease experiencing food insecurity. The new food distribution centers will be located in Lake Village and Helena, Arkansas, each respectively serving approximately 60 selected seniors within a 25-mile radius (including Ashley, Chicot, Desha, Phillips, Monroe, Lee & St. Francis). During the first six months of the project, the Arkansas Rural Health Partnership will engage consortium members (UAMS and Jefferson Regional School of Nursing) to finalize all preparations to launch the 18-month pilot project. Early into the initial project period, consortium members will engage additional cross-sector partners in the Good Food Rx planning team (including, but not limited to: food banks, farmer’s markers, and nonprofits assisting seniors) to develop, enhance, and sustain pilot implementation efforts beyond grant funding. The 6-month planning period will establish the framework for project success at proposed pilot sites and potential replication in other locations across the Delta, state, and nation beyond grant funding. Tasks during the planning phase include: 1) project planning & development, 2) create the food distribution center sites & menus, and 3) create the patient education & support platform. The remaining 18-month implementation phase will focus on the final proposed task: 4) launch the food pharmacies & patient education platform pilot.
During the pilot implementation phase, healthcare providers at UAMS East Clinic (Helena) and Lake Village Clinic (Lake Village) will identify 120 seniors with chronic disease experiencing food insecurity to participate in the Good Food Rx pilot. For the following 18-months, each pilot participant will be weekly provided with healthy food (to feed up to a family of four), nutritional and health coaching support (through community health workers & nursing students), nutritional and cooking classes (through a nutritionist & Cooking Matters instructor), and health improvement tracking and support (through customized, connected wearables & iPads). The project aims to reduce access barriers to healthy food, while also providing relevant engagement and support to improve health behaviors that positively influence health outcomes and reduce chronic disease impact. “The Good Food Rx pilot project is a unique opportunity to address food insecurity, chronic disease, and transportation needs in our rural seniors through innovation and collaboration. We are thrilled to work alongside UAMS, Jefferson Regional Nursing School, and clinic partners (UAMS East Clinic & Lake Village Clinic) to pilot this program over the next two years,” shared Mellie Bridewell, ARHP Chief Executive Officer.
The Arkansas Rural Health Partnership (ARHP) is a non-profit horizontal hospital and economic development organization composed of fourteen independently owned, South Arkansas rural hospitals, two Federally Qualified Health Centers, and 2 Medical Schools. This unique network is the largest healthcare service provider in the area and serves as a hub for economic growth and development across the region. ARHP efforts aim to support and improve existing healthcare infrastructure, while strengthening healthcare delivery across rural south Arkansas.