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Program History - Prescription for Health

In the summer of 2008, Washtenaw County Public Health (WCPH) launched Prescription for Health as a pilot program to encourage patients at Ypsilanti health clinics to increase their fruit and vegetable consumption by shopping at the Downtown Ypsilanti Farmers Market.


“Food security and access to healthy foods is a fundamental need to support patients who are attempting to improve their diet for better health..”
--Clinic staff person

Previous community assessments found a lack of fresh produce available in Ypsilanti’s downtown area, lower fruit and vegetable consumption and higher chronic disease risk among Ypsilanti residents compared to the rest of the county. While physicians or nutritionists at local health clinics might advise a healthier diet, many residents faced a challenge in finding healthier food in a community filled with convenience and liquor stores.

The four clinics involved in the pilot program – The Corner Health Center, St. Joseph Mercy Health System’s Neighborhood Health Clinic, University of Michigan Health System’s Ypsilanti Health Center, and Hope Clinic – serve many low-income people among their patient populations.

The impetus behind PFH included the hypothesis that many clinic patients were simply unaware of the farmers market as a healthy food resource. By providing a packet to each patient at the participating clinics which contained $5.00 worth of tokens to redeem for fresh produce at the market, PFH encouraged low-income patients to shop there. In addition, the PFH program built patient awareness that they could use their Bridge Cards at the market to access Food Stamp benefits. (At the time, very few farmers markets in Michigan offered EBT machines for Bridge Card use, so it was understandable that people were not aware of this feature.)

"The PFH program underscores the message we give that healthy food is important and plays a significant role in health improvement.”
--Clinic staff person

PFH successfully forged a connection between the health care sector and the fresh food sector. This connection was a “win” for all involved – the patients, the clinics, the farmers, and the farmers’ market.

In 2009, with funding from the Michigan Department of Community Health, the four original Ypsilanti clinics were joined by Ann Arbor’s Packard Health clinic. The 2009 program was able to: 

  • Increase the number of patients who used the tokens after receiving them at the clinic 
  • Increase the number of patients who were aware that they could use their EBT/Bridge card at the market and used their card at the market.

In addition to the clinic program, WCPH launched a modified PFH program at 10 food pantries in Ypsilanti. The PFH 2009 report provides more detail on these results.

For More Information:

Ariane Reister, MPH, RD
Prescription for HEalth Program Coordinator 
(734) 544-2969

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