If you take prescription medication, you’ve probably seen these words on a pill bottle at some point: Take twice a day with food, or take one hour before eating.
But what if this common direction was a hardship for patients who do not have easy access to food? A researcher from Weill Cornell Medicine examined this phenomenon and found these patients often will stop taking the medicine, a surprising and unintended consequence for their physicians.
A study group asked patients how often this created a challenge for them in their everyday lives. Many patients said it was hard to get nutritious foods. They also often make poor food choices and said they sometimes have to choose between food and rent, or food and medicine.
Physicians now are being urged to raise these screening questions with patients. But some have asked what’s the point in asking about something we can’t do anything about. It’s not that they’re not interested, but why ask patients if they’re depressed if they don’t have access to mental health resources? There’s no sense, some doctors say, screening for diseases if you don’t have a way to treat them, or specialists who can manage them.
Some clinics, however, are coming up with creative answers, including a mini farmers market where patients can get fresh fruit and vegetables from local vendors as well as ideas on how to prepare them. Others have involved community health workers, local clergy, neighborhood food banks, and other sources to give patients some food options before they leave the clinic.
The road to better health can start with asking a patient a simple question: Do you know where your next meal is coming from?