APPALACHIANS – Organizers of a project to improve health worker awareness of community nutrition issues and access to health care will continue in Wise County.
Wendy Welch, executive director of the Southwest Virginia Graduate Medical Education Consortium, said the $20,000 grant-funded program began in July 2021 to teach healthcare career students the importance of understanding the economic and health environment of their patients during their treatment.
“When we started the program and were talking with the students about what they had learned, one of them said ‘the need for logical compassion,'” Welch said Friday. “Often a person’s health is not the result of making bad choices, but of not having good choices available, and healthcare workers need to help patients find resources to make those choices. choice.”
Appalachia and the village of Inman found itself in a food desert after the short-term closure of the remaining grocery store in 2019. Welch said a local discount store owner and a Dollar general store and two convenience stores are offering grocery options, but often get meat and fresh produce. means residents should travel to Big Stone Gap or Norton to the nearest supermarkets.
Some local residents might not have transportation, Welch said, and that means finding someone who can take them.
“If you have someone who works at a fast food restaurant, for example, they might not be earning enough to balance transportation, rent, utilities, and food,” Welch said. “In such cases, they may get free meals at work, but it may be a limited diet, the only food they get during the day.
“That’s why a medical professional who says, ‘You need to eat better,’ may come across as dismissive,” Welch added.
The program brought together GMEC, the pre-professional medical club of UVA Wise, the Rural Health Association of Virginia; Feed Southwest Virginia; Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine at Virginia Tech and its counterpart, DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine; and the Appalachian School of Pharmacy to teach students the importance of logical compassion.
The organizations have worked with residents of Inman Village to develop monthly events focused on learning about ways to improve nutrition and access needed medical care, Welch said. Inman Baptist Church has also opened its facilities to help organize events, and Welch said that has been a big help in connecting with the community.
Welch said Feeding Southwest Virginia’s coordination of its regional mobile market with the project beginning in October 2021 has given many local residents monthly access to purchase more fresh food.
Susan Cornett, mobile market coordinator for Feeding Southwest Virginia, said expanding the monthly market schedule to Inman has worked well with GMEC’s efforts.
“Residents have become more and more open to what we can offer,” Cornett said. “They see it’s not a handout but a way to get the food they need while helping themselves. They also don’t have to pay someone to take them to a store out of town.
The market also offers sugar-free food options to help residents with diabetes with their diets, Cornett said.
The market isn’t limited to Inman residents, Cornett said. Although the mobile marketplace does not handle cash, customers can use SNAP/EBT, debit or credit cards.
As the project grant expires in August, Welch said medical schools and UVA Wise’s pre-professional club are working to find other grant sources to continue the program.
“We’re really happy with how the students and the community are working together,” Welch said.