Dr. Vinny Biggs, | Pediatrician, Holyoke Health Center
Member of the Coalition to End Hunger’s Service Integration Team
I am a pediatrician with the Holyoke Health Center and we have partnered with The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts on a project funded by the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts doing food insecurity screening of our patients and families. The Coalition to End Hunger has developed a referral network to offer many resources beyond food access. In addition to doing a wonderful job of connecting families to SNAP benefits and food access sites (including mobile food trucks), they are also providing referrals for housing support, early childhood education, employment training, home heating and more.
As a provider, we struggle to provide tangible and effective ways to improve our patients’ health and well-being. We know that the social determinants of health (housing, food, education, transportation, healthcare access, etc) are critical to improving health, especially chronic disease. You can imagine how difficult it would be to pay attention in school or manage your diabetes or hypertension if you don’t have adequate nutrition or any of the social determinants of health. This project allows us to directly refer our patients to The Food Bank and they then reach out and connect them to necessary services that can be life changing and so critical to the improvement in their health and well-being.
With a few clicks of the mouse in their electronic health record, the referral is done and we have empathically, efficiently and, in real time, made a difference in the lives and health of the families that entrust us with their care. This program is a unique opportunity and collaboration that I hope continues for a very, very long time.