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Health center to develop programs to fight WV food insecurity

Mark Richardson

A West Virginia community health center is participating in a program addressing food scarcity.

The National Association of Community Health Centers’ 2024 Innovation Incubator creates ways to expand access to healthy foods. Cabin Creek Health Systems, based in Charleston, will have funding and guidance from experts to help it design and test community-based solutions.

Merrill Warschoff Press, senior vice president of partnership, development and innovation for the National Association of Community Health Centers, said the facilities are uniquely suited to address the issues.

“Health centers are highly effective and innovated with integrated models of care,” Press explained. “They reach far beyond the walls of the traditional exam room, not only to prevent illness and treat it but also to really address the social drivers that may cause poor health.”

The eight health centers chosen for the program will be awarded $30,000 dollars each to develop and test new solutions over six months. The association will share the results with 1,400 health centers across the country, affecting the care of more than 31 million patients.

A primary goal of the Innovation Incubator is to discover best practices for aiding millions of people and sharing information with health centers nationwide. Press pointed out the program seeks to find the underlying cause of clients’ health problems.

“Whether it’s food insecurity and poor nutrition, or even housing, joblessness, mental illness, substance use disorders,” Press outlined. “Advancing health equity really starts with finding solutions to the environmental factors that cause poor health outcomes.”

The clinics, including the one is Charleston, are tasked with imagining, building and testing sustainable solutions for their unique populations. Press noted many clinics provide what local markets sometimes cannot supply.

“Many health centers operate things like food pantries or work with their local food banks,” Press observed. “There are others who have their own community gardens or partner with local farmers markets-bring fresh, nutritious foods to their patients.”