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San Francisco Health Network Launched Food Pharmacy

As part of an effort to address hypertension and improve blood pressure control among its target disparity population, San Francisco Health Network is piloting “Food Pharmacies” at several primary care clinics to help patients with their nutritional needs.  This effort is part of the Hypertension Health Equity Project, which began in 2015, as a quality improvement and equity initiative of the San Francisco Health Network’s Primary Care group, a branch of the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

The goals of the Hypertension Health Equity Project are to advance health equity, provide high-quality care, and improve blood pressure control for African American patients with high blood pressure in the San Francisco Health Network. Of the 11,000 African American patients in the network, this health equity intervention is intended to meet the health and social needs of the approximately 4,000 African American patients with high blood pressure.

At the clinic-based food pharmacies, patients can use prescriptions from health care providers to select healthy foods from a food pantry at no cost to themselves or their families. The program also provides nutrition and cooking education – such as how to blanch and freeze vegetables, or how to prepare healthy food in a microwave if patients lack a stove. The class also introduces patients to healthy foods they may not have tried, such as tofu. The food pharmacy fosters community and patient interaction, encouraging patients to share skills and recipes with each other.

As of May 2017, 75% of patients who participated in the food pharmacy pilot test said it gave them more access to healthy food, and 50% said they were now eating healthier foods.