Our Nutrition and Exercise Program
Q&A with JoAnn Gruener RD, MPH, CDE
Nutrition & Health Education Director
Why does Marin Community Clinics have a special Nutrition and Exercise Program?
We see nutritious food and exercise as medicine, and ensuring that our patients have access to both is key to providing whole person care. Many of our patients have challenges in their daily lives that make it difficult to eat healthy food or get exercise.
They know the importance to their health, but often need coaching, encouragement, and more education.
What are some of the specific challenges you see?
The challenges are many – access, lifestyle, financial and cultural. Traditional diets may include a high percentage of bread and rice, and eating fast food is often easier than cooking – especially if you don’t have a kitchen and both parents work at several jobs. Food can be very expensive and it’s hard to fit in exercise. A host of serious problems can result – obesity, diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol – all issues that are often preventable.
What kinds of services do you offer?
Our staff of three registered dietitians and four health educators takes a very practical approach. We encourage families to come to our weekly Health Hubs, where they can obtain free, nutritious food, nutrition education, health screenings, and learn about exercise. Hundreds of people come every week!
We also offer several groups for our patients that address chronic disease. Our goal is to make healthy eating and exercising fun. There is always a way for us to connect with our patients when we are addressing their basic needs. For instance, we help them navigate through the many food choices that exist in our grocery stores and help them make typical meals healthier.
Last year, we started a weekly Walking Group around the Bay and a Parents Meet-Up Group at Albert J. Boro Community Park. Families participate in fun outdoor activities led by our staff. These groups are a result of the County of Marin Parks Rx Program known as “MCC in the Park.” Every month, we promote an event where we encourage our patients to visit a county or city park for a ranger-led event or self-led hike.
What kinds of results are you seeing?
We’ve seen a lot of dramatic turnarounds. We’re particularly proud of the diabetes group – patients have lost weight, are managing their blood sugars, and have reduced their need for insulin – all because of healthy lifestyle changes. Participants aren’t just learning from the professionals, but from each other. It’s powerful, and they are grateful.
At Marin Community Clinics, we rely on our dynamic community of donors. It is our donors that allow us to add/enhance programs that provide quality, cost-effective, culturally sensitive, patient-centered health care. We offer a number of options to make it as easy as possible to give. So choose which suits you best.