Nearly 80 percent of what determines a patient’s health happens outside of hospitals and doctors’ offices – the social determinants of health.
“As our region’s health system, our teams are dedicated to understanding the factors that impact our patients’ health,” explained Maulik Joshi, Dr.P.H., President and CEO of Meritus Health. “If a patient can’t access healthy foods, we cannot expect them to be in good health. These challenges are dynamic, but we can’t wait until we have permanent solutions to help our patients. Sometimes, we need to approach these challenges that’s as simple as making sure they have their next meal.”
The approach in this instance are two bright blue food boxes, located on the Meritus Health Campus off Robinwood Drive. Similar to the Little Free Library concept, the Care to Share boxes are stocked with food and anyone is free to take what they need.
“At every appointment, our caregivers ask patients if they have access to food. If they don’t, our Care Management team is informed to connect the patient with community resources. Sometimes it can take a day or two for a person to get established in those programs, so these Care to Share boxes really help address that immediate need for the patient,” Joshi offered.
It happens more often than one may realize. In Washington County, 13% of people are considered food insecure, and 15% of children also fall into that category. Food insecurity is defined as a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food. For Meritus caregivers, these aren’t just statistics, they are real families.
“We helped someone who had no transportation and who recently started living at a downtown Hagerstown hotel,” said Sydney Myers of Meritus Community Health. “The patient was without food, and she was able to pick out things she desperately needed. She was so thankful,” Myers added.
“One of the Care to Share boxes is right outside of Meritus Family Medicine – Robinwood,” said Karessa Cameron of Meritus Outpatient Care Management. “I have personally helped a patient get food there, and it was very convenient to have the box right outside of the family medicine suite,” she said.
“This effort is a perfect example of how a little kindness can go a long way,” Joshi said. “We are only three months in, but we are on track to spend approximately $30,000 a year in food to fill our two boxes, in addition to the donations of food received,” said Joshi.
The donation boxes are located at the main lobby entrance to Meritus Medical Center and the Purple Entrance to Robinwood Professional Center. A list of suggested donations can be found at MeritusHealth.com/CaretoShare.