AmeriCorps Blog 10/22/19: Things Some of us take for Granted

Each week, our NHC-SF AmeriCorps members will blog about their 2019-2020 year of service. NHC members will gain invaluable experience while supporting the health care safety net by serving at host sites such as community health centers and Department of Public Health sites to provide health education and care to vulnerable and underserved SF residents.

Hello, it’s Joanne again. 

To continue the topic of Food Pharmacy from two weeks ago, I wanted to address the patient population at HealthRIGHT 360.  An ongoing project I’ve been working on is entering all the patient survey data onto a huge Excel spreadsheet for the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH).  After removing all personal information for each patient, I can send the survey data to the SFDPH for data analysis.  Every time a new patient attends Food Pharmacy, we provide them with a pre-survey to complete.  They fill out the survey when they check in, before they go inside and see the food demonstration, nutrition education, and foods provided that week. The survey involves questions of various topics, including demographics, eating habits, food insecurity, and resources.  After a patient has made a few visits to Food Pharmacy, we give them a post-survey to fill out. The post-survey helps us gauge how Food Pharmacy has impacted their eating habits and health, such as whether their blood glucose and blood pressure have changed.  It also asks whether they think their eating habits would be affected if the Food Pharmacy program were to discontinue.

Seeing patients’ responses on these surveys made me realize how privileged many of us are without even realizing it. Things we take for granted such as having a roof over our heads, food, clothing, and health insurance, can seem like luxuries to other people. I also found it interesting that many patients owned crockpots and hot plates. The reason is that many of them live in single room occupancies (SROs), and they may or may not have a stove or oven to cook their meals. Therefore, they rely on crockpots, hot plates, and microwaves to heat up their food.  Some patients live in shelters and rely on free meals served during the day and may not have hot dinners. Some cannot take as much food as they would like due to not having a refrigerator to store the food in. Things that many of us consider basic necessities are not so basic to others.

Serving at HealthRIGHT 360 has made me realize how much I have to be grateful for.  Having a laptop to type up this blog post is a luxury.  Not having to worry about my next meal is a luxury.  Being able to afford BART despite being sandwiched by the crowds each morning is also a luxury.  Something that never crossed my mind prior to this experience is that our patients don’t always have access to the time.  When I was a kid, I used a watch to tell time.  Now, like many of us do, I rely on my smartphone.  Whipping out my phone to check the time every 30 seconds has become so second nature that I didn’t think that would ever be a problem for people.  Sadly it is.  Patients may sometimes miss their appointments because they don’t have 24/7 access to the time.  Some do not own a phone and therefore cannot receive appointment reminders.  All of this adds up.  On the outside, it may seem that our patient population is simply irresponsible and unmotivated, but if we dig deeper, we will discover the many barriers that prevent them from achieving their optimal health and potential.


Natasha Dao