You don’t need a pill to eat more nutritious foods, become more active or make other small lifestyle changes that can greatly improve overall health and lower the risk of disease. Yet, a prescription for healthier living may be just what’s needed, particularly for those in communities where social conditions and other factors negatively impact health outcomes.
In the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, where the percentage of residents with heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and obesity are all among the highest in the city, there’s a new type of prescription that requires no trip to the pharmacy or haggling over cost. Dot Rx, created in partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA), connects patients with a peer coach, who helps individuals set both personal and family goals around eating, exercise and engaging with the outdoors. Patients and their families also have access to an array of no- or low-cost neighborhood resources and activities to support them in achieving their goals.
"By taking a more holistic approach to healthcare, we are investing in prevention," said Andrew Dreyfus, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts president and CEO. "The support of a peer from a patient’s own community is invaluable. Our peer coaches understand the challenges participating family members may face. They give Dot Rx participants permission to do something for themselves and their family members and make their health a priority."
Funded by BCBSMA, Dot Rx was developed by, and is run in collaboration with, Codman Square Health Center, Union Capital Boston, Daily Table, the Dorchester YMCA, Healthworks Community Fitness and Outdoors Rx, a program of the Appalachian Mountain Club.
Dot Rx is open to any Dorchester family with at least one child under the age of 18 and a family member who is a patient at the community-based Codman Square Health Center. Physicians at Codman Square refer patients to the specially trained peer coaches who then meet one-on-one to determine needs, set goals and develop a plan of action to meet those goals.
While the idea of a lifestyle prescription is not new, Dot Rx is the first to engage a health insurance company, community health center and local nonprofits. Prescriptions can include membership to a local gym, enrollment in a free cooking class, coupons for fresh fruits and veggies or a guided nature walk for the whole family.
Dot Rx prescriptions are included in patients’ medical records so doctors can monitor their progress and see if the program is making a difference. Currently, 500 families have been referred to the program and BCBSMA is analyzing the data to determine if it can be replicated statewide.
All program and company names are property of their respective owners, used for identification purposes only, and are in no way associated or affiliated with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.