“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