Importance of Nutrition

Nutrition is a key component of health – and a difficult area to effect lasting change in patients. As emphasizes here, “support and active engagement from various segments of society are needed” to create better, lasting outcomes.

Rola shared in her post in November how providers and care teams can and should consider the biopsychosocial elements of health when addressing nutrition with patients and their families. Food access, time and resource constraints, cultural norms and expectations, and individual health concerns all play a significant role in nutrition.

Community health centers have a unique opportunity to positively impact healthy eating. In addition to serving as the source of primary and preventive care for over 24 million Americans every year, health centers often provide supportive services to deliver integrated care, which enable patients to receive holistic care from multiple providers – physicians, nutritionists, therapists – at the same time to give patients the best information to lead healthy lives. Providers can tailor their conversations based on their awareness of patients’ medical histories and cultural norms, along with the environment and resources of the community, which increases the likelihood of motivating patients to change their eating habits and maintain those changes over time.

Recommendations for Healthy Eating

In honor of National Nutrition Month, some recommendations from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that you can share with your community include:

  1. Keep it simple. Eating right doesn’t have to be complicated.
  2. Be mindful of portion sizes. Eat and drink the amount that’s right for you.
  3. Include a variety of healthful foods from all the food groups on a regular basis.
  4. Select healthier options when eating away from home.
  5. Find activities that you enjoy and be physically active most days of the week.

Providing guidance to patients through health education programs and regular conversations about nutrition needs and expectations can create a dialogue around what healthy options are – and barriers that may be preventing patients from making those choices. As health centers deliver care to the most vulnerable individuals, these conversations can help staff connect patients to available resources.

Understanding staff members’ baseline knowledge about nutrition can help health centers tailor individual learning plans to ensure all care team members are consistently promoting healthy habits, regardless of their area of practice. Educating staff on best practices for navigating cultural differences also helps to build a foundation for successful discussions around healthy eating.

Health centers deliver care to the nation’s most vulnerable individuals and families, and resource constraints, lack of food access, or other socio-cultural factors can easily derail patients’ efforts to make healthier nutrition choices. By preparing your staff to promote healthy choices in a culturally respectful way, you can help reduce the barriers to improving the health of your population.

Creating better health habits that last means meeting people where they are. Relias helps community health centers assess and develop staff competencies so they can do just that – and deliver better health outcomes.

Rola Aamar, PhD

Partner, Behavioral Health Solutions, Relias

Rola Aamar, PhD, is currently the senior clinical effectiveness consultant at Relias for behavioral health, bringing her clinical and operational knowledge of integrated care, data analytics, and behavioral healthcare to support client use of analytics to improve clinical performance and patient health. In this role, she provides clinically-informed, data-driven consulting to clients to promote performance improvement. Rola began her career as a behavioral health clinician in integrated care working with multidisciplinary healthcare teams to develop comprehensive treatment programs for comorbid chronic health and mental health condition. Rola completed her PhD at Texas Tech University, where she focused her clinical research on the importance of treatment alliance between patients and healthcare providers to address treatment attrition and treatment adherence. Prior to Relias, she developed and managed integrated care programs in primary care clinics, specialty clinics, community health centers, schools, and hospitals.

Melissa Lewis-Stoner

Vice President of Product Management for Health & Human Services, Relias

Ms. Lewis-Stoner is currently the Vice President of Product Management for Health and Human Services at Relias. She is a licensed clinical social worker with more than 25 years of behavioral and public health experience. Prior to joining Relias, Melissa served as a Client Advisor for a behavioral health analytics company. She has also served in a variety of leadership roles including overseeing public health policy and planning and integrated care programs. Melissa began her career as clinician working in outpatient behavioral health and forensic social work programs. She received her Master of Social Work degree from the University of Pittsburgh.

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