Dr. Dona Cooper in cooperation with the Cooper Wellness
Center and the RGV Food Bank have recently launched
the Pharmacy Program healthy fruits and vegetables. Poor nutrition and obesity are designed to provide better access to
both challenges in the Rio Grande Valley. Low accessibility to
nutritious foods have caused serious health problems to residents
in some of our underserved communities. Our partnership with
the community garden has improved the quality of nutrition
and increased the consumption of fruits and vegetables for our
patients and our community.
Here in the Rio Grande Valley, Diabetes, as well as other diet-related diseases, is a serious issue. This innovative concept of “prescribing” fresh vegetables for her patients has been the vision of Dr. Cooper for years. In her practice of Internal Medicine, she has found that the most effective remedies are those which treat the root cause of an issue. Nearly 50 percent of South Texas residents are predisposed to diabetes, mostly because of obesity, placing the Rio Grande Valley at a higher rate than regional, state and national averages. There has also been a significant rise in the cost of medical care and treatment due to diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and complications, such as amputation, kidney failure and blindness. Eating correctly for diabetics means higher consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean proteins, complex carbohydrates. These are very same foods that prevent heart disease, cancer and obesity. With the alarmingly high incidence of lifestyle-driven diseases, we need to be looking at long-term, far-reaching solutions which involve community educational programs, providing access to healthier, densely-nutritious foods that can slow the progression and, in some cases, reverse the diagnosis.
Several years ago, Dr. Cooper began to practice “lifestyle medicine” which involves shifting care from the traditional treatment-based system to one that emphasizes lifestyle modifications and prevention. As a visionary in our medical community, Dr. Cooper has taken a leadership role in patient empowerment strategies which assist the patient in becoming more proactive concerning their health. The "Pharmacy program” in partnership with the community Garden at the RGV Food Bank helps to provide a FREE weekly supply of fresh produce to assist patients on a limited budget to be able improve the nutritional content of their diets and promote a healthier lifestyle. Because clients might not be familiar with some of the vegetables, delicious recipes are provided to help them to incorporate these natural foods in their meal plans. Free diabetic wellness classes, dietary consultations and healthy living workshops as well as cooking demonstrations are also provided to teach healthy eating habits and incentives are being worked into the program to encourage participation. This groundbreaking concept provides a preemptive advantage in our efforts to produce meaningful changes, not only in the lives of patients, but in the community at large.
The “Pharmacy program” is poised and well-positioned to cause a paradigm shift in our cultural frame of reference. We believe the foundation of meaningful change includes broad-based community involvement with educational programs on wellness, disease prevention and healthy lifestyles. This pilot program has the potential, if utilized and implemented, to have a significant role in decreasing chronic diseases in the Rio Grande Valley. As a part of Dr. Cooper’s “Get Healthy” platforms of community engagement, the philosophy of the Pharmacy Program is geared toward treating a healthy community not only for our existing patients, but for generations to come.
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