It’s not enough to say ‘eat fruits and vegetables’

Let thy food be thy medicine” – Hippocrates

Although this quote is from quite a long time ago, its essence is as true as ever.

At Open Door, Nutrition Services are integrated into our comprehensive care model, leading to improved outcomes for patients. Registered Dietician Nutritionists help patients understand how what they eat can improve medical conditions and overall health. These services are available to patients who want to manage a medical condition such as diabetes or hypertension, control their level of cholesterol or blood sugar, or improve eating/lifestyle habits to optimize their health.

“It’s all about prevention. Our patients learn to take the lead and be in charge of their own health – sometimes this is a challenge when there are so many other things going on. But it is very rewarding when you see people going through so much, but they trust you and they see the results. I love what I do.”  Paula Caetano, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Nutrition is a critical part of health and development as we strive to make informed food choices and develop healthful eating and physical activity habits. Education plays a significant role ensuring patients understand the why and not just the what. But our patients often struggle with barriers to their ability to access adequate nutritional foods. Our nutritionists focus on prevention and the role of nutrition in one’s overall health.

Paula Caetano shared, “I recently worked with George, who at 42 years old had diabetes and wanted to learn how to manage his blood glucose level. At the first visit, it became very clear that he was not taking care of himself because of his struggle with depression, insomnia, and grief. I referred him to a member of our Behavioral Health Team. We coordinated our work together and over the next 6 months, he increasingly became able to manage his condition and subsequently, has stopped taking insulin and controls his blood glucose levels with lifestyle changes and oral medication. At Open Door, our patients feel listened to, they feel valued.”

Understanding the barriers to making healthy choices is vital to effectively addressing unhealthy patterns. Our team centered approach is instrumental in breaking down the barriers that can cause and create challenges to managing chronic illnesses.

“Another patient I recently worked with was unable to follow the plan we developed because he did not have access to food. It’s not enough to just recommend eating fruits and vegetables. He said, ‘I want to eat what you recommend; I want to be healthy, but I can’t. I only have bread and pasta, which I know will increase my glucose.’ So, I reached out to our wellness team, and they provided resources including a mobile food distribution option that was just 5 minutes from his house. He now is able to plan healthy meals throughout his week and focus on developing a healthy lifestyle,” said Ms. Caetano.

Open Door’s multi-disciplinary approach is effective. Our primary care team, behavioral health clinicians, and our wellness providers work closely together to develop individual plans to address the challenges faced by each patient. Nutrition services are provided both in-person as well as through virtual visits.  For another Open Door patient, Mark, who struggled with depression and low self-worth, speaking with a behavioral health clinician gave him the help he needed to focus on his food choices. He said he, “felt valued, like a person.” Following the recommendations of the Registered Dietitian, he was able to change his eating patterns – lowering his A1C from 6 to 5.6, which is within the normal range for blood glucose levels.

“As a medical home, Open Door addresses patients’ concerns in multiple dimensions. This patient-centered approach provides comprehensive care and ensures continuous medical care to patients. For instance, we often get referrals from medical providers and nutritionists for patients interested in participating in one or more of our adjunct programs, such as the diabetes prevention program (DPP), the Diabetes self-management program (DSMP), or even our virtual fitness classes.” Claudio Villarroel, MS, Associate Director, Wellness Programs at Open Door Family Medical Center

About Open Door Family Medical Center and Foundation
Open Door Family Medical Center provides health care and wellness programs to individuals and families in need throughout Westchester, Putnam and Ulster Counties. A pioneer Federally Qualified Health Center, Open Door provides more than 300,000 patient visits annually and serves nearly 62,000 individual patients who might not otherwise have access. Open Door offers integrated services and a holistic approach to building healthier communities. Primary medical care, dental care, integrated behavioral health care, clinical nutrition, wellness programs, and chronic disease management are the foundation of its clinical programs. Founded as a free clinic in 1972, Open Door’s mission of building healthier communities through accessible, equitable, culturally competent health care has led to site and service expansions. Today, Open Door operates centers in Brewster, Mamaroneck, Mount Kisco, Ossining, Port Chester, and Sleepy Hollow, in addition to nine School-Based Health Centers in the Port Chester, Webutuck, and Ossining School Districts, a mobile dental van in Mount Kisco, and a dental practice in Saugerties, NY. Open Door is accredited by the Joint Commission and is recognized by the National Committee on Quality Assurance as a Patient-Centered Medical Home. Open Door achieves clinical results that consistently surpass national benchmarks for patient outcomes. For additional information, please contact Elisabeth Gilbert, Senior Director of Development, at 914-502-1417.

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