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Ore. Programs Improve Health with Cooking Tips

The six-week Cooking Matters course in Portland helps people prepare homemade meals. (Autumn Akers/CareOregon)
The six-week Cooking Matters course in Portland helps people prepare homemade meals. (Autumn Akers/CareOregon)
March 12, 2019

MEDFORD, Ore. — The doctor's office plays an important role in health care, but life outside of that office is most significant to a person's health overall. That's why organizations across Oregon are integrating other services into care.

La Clinica Wellness Center in Medford is as much a community center as it is a medical office. It provides space for exercise and mindfulness classes, yoga and acupuncture alongside three primary-care suites. La Clinica also hosts cooking classes, recognizing that healthy diets are key to healthy lifestyles.

Jillian Robinette, practice manager at La Cinica, said focusing on nutrition translates into healthy practices in other parts of people's lives too.

"Having a more present mindset of what I'm eating, how I'm spending my day, how I'm focusing on my activities has actually related to more present self, more aware of their body, their energy, their mindfulness,” Robinette said. “And so we've actually seen better overall health from our patients."

La Clinica also provides a mobile food pantry and healthy eating classes in Spanish. It serves members of the Oregon Health Plan, the state's Medicaid program.

CareOregon provides funding for the Wellness Center. Addressing social determinants such as diet and exercise are mandates for Coordinated Care Organizations, which manage the Oregon Health Plan in local communities.

Matt Hogge is La Clinica's medical director and teaches Prescription Kitchen, a cooking class for people with chronic health needs. Hogge said the wellness center gets to work outside of the traditional primary-care box.

"It's easy and it's quick to hand somebody a prescription for a blood pressure medicine, but that's not always the right answer,” Hogge said. “We know that looking upstream and trying to fix some of those lifestyle pieces can help prevent further complications down the line."

Autumn Akers teaches the six-week Cooking Matters class at a Portland Fred Meyer store. The program is a collaboration between CareOregon, Fred Meyer and Oregon Food Bank to help people prepare homemade meals. It also focuses on nutrition education for low-income Oregonians, providing attendees a bag of groceries at the end of each class to address food insecurity.

"We really teach it from A to Z and it really just empowers people to actually want to make that change,” Akers said. “They want to try spinach. They want to rinse off that tomato. They want to be able to be healthy, and this is one step closer."

Akers said primary-care doctors are referring patients to her and the wait-list is growing.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR