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Commentary: Passport Health Plan, Bluegrass Harvest partnership increasing food access

Health care is more than going to your doctor and taking medicine. When we take a closer look beginning in the home, and extending to the workplace, our schools, and our neighborhoods, we see that the social determinants of health play a major role in overall health and well-being.

Research on the social determinants of health is fairly new, but there’s no question that access to food, income, education, physical activity, and proximity to care all impact health outcomes. It’s also evident that ensuring individuals have access to resources that improve overall health will positively affect the economy.

Living a healthy life is not always easy for residents in communities where access and affordability are major factors in deciding what to buy and eat. Ever try to find healthy food in a predominantly low-income neighborhood? Chances are it is a lot more difficult than tracking it down in a wealthy suburb. The conditions in which we live explain in part why some Kentuckians are healthier than others and why more are not as healthy as they could be.

This is why Passport Health Plan and Community Ventures have partnered to provide community-supported agriculture (CSAs) to residents in Lexington’s East End.

This partnership will not only provide better access to healthy food, it will also educate residents on what healthy food is.

The program will seek to provide education and support to change eating habits and lower riskier health behaviors. Twenty weeks of locally grown produce will be provided at no charge to identified residents in this first-of-its-kind program.

With Passport as its partner, residents will also have access to regular sessions to support them on their fresh food journey. From cooking demonstrations and exercise classes to nutrition and diet tips, all of this will be provided free of charge to residents and their families participating in Bluegrass Harvest.

One way to address the disparities among communities is by streamlining access to healthier food options. Just a few shifts in diet can have a major impact on overall health. One program that is looking to do just that is Bluegrass Harvest.

Not only is this program good for those receiving the food, it is also good for Kentucky’s budget. With greater health issues come increased insurance rates, as well as high incidents of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and other chronic conditions. These social determinants also lead to negative consequences like low-term birth weights, hospital readmissions, and emergency room visits. All of these factors take away from productivity and cost us valuable health care resources.

Bluegrass Harvest is a win-win for Kentucky. This partnership was created to improve the health of all Kentuckians while lowering health care costs and increasing income for local farmers.

There’s no question that where you live, work, and play has a huge impact on your health. With Bluegrass Harvest, Passport Health Plan and Community Ventures hope all Lexingtonians – no matter their income, education levels, or neighborhood – have the opportunity to bite into a fresh, Kentucky Proud fruit or vegetable this summer.

From Kevin Smith (left) is President and CEO of Community Ventures

Mark Carter (right) is CEO of Passport Health Plan

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