Doctors Prescribe Fruits and Vegetables to Improve Patient Health

posted on Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Iowa Produce RX

Doctors Prescribe Fruits and Vegetables

to Improve Patient Health

Pilot Shows Significant Impact on Health Outcomes

The Iowa Healthiest State Initiative (HSI), in collaboration with Broadlawns Medical Center, conducted a 6-month pilot of a produce prescription program from June 2021 to February 2022. The Polk County Produce Prescription Program (PCPPP), connected food insecure patients with diet related diseases (diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular, etc.) to medical providers that wrote prescriptions for free fruits and vegetables, while delivering nutrition education and collecting biometrics monthly. The PCPPP was made possible by funding from the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines and the Mid-Iowa Health Foundation

Data collected from the Broadlawns medical team and from participant's self-reported surveys showed the pilot had a significant impact on patient health. The results from patient biometric screenings support the self-reported patient data.There was a significant decrease in hemoglobin A1C (the long-term metric for blood glucose control), cholesterol, and non-HDL cholesterol from the beginning of the pilot to the end.  

A majority of patients that participated in the program reported that they ate more fruits and green leafy vegetables after receiving the prescription for six months. The patient program satisfaction was also overwhelmingly positive with greater than 90% of all participants reporting they had a positive or very positive experience.

The PCPPP successfully addressed food insecurity as well, with patients reporting that they were less likely to skip a meal or cut the size of one because they did not have enough money for food.

The PCPPP pilot outcomes have helped HSI secure two more awards that will provide funding for expansion of the program:

  • 2022 Childhood Obesity Prevention and Environmental Health and Sustainability Award: Funding from the US Mayors Award for Polk County will fund a pediatric produce prescription program to address food insecurity, obesity, and chronic health conditions in children at Broadlawns and Primary Health Care in Des Moines.
  • USDA Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive grant: The grant will help to scale the produce prescription program into five new locations across the state using an innovative app based platform that can deliver education and easy access to the produce prescription while simultaneously decreasing workload for medical providers. 

The Iowa Produce Prescription Program (IPPP) advances health equity by transforming the healthcare system’s role to increase access to affordable, nutritious food that can improve the overall health of patients and their family members. Without such access, individuals face greater risk of diet-related disease, increased health care costs, and death. While traditional medical insurance covers the cost of prescription drugs, the IPPP supports a food as medicine approach to covering the cost of healthy foods. 

Through collaboration among healthcare institutions, private-sector business, and community organizations,  patients and families gain access to the food and nutrition resources they need – just like any other prescription medication or referral. The Healthiest States’ mission to close the nutrition gap with affordable fruits and vegetables is proven to help low- income families lead healthier lives. 

To learn more about the Healthiest State Initiative, its mission, vision and leadership, visit