Hunger and Health: Making the Connection

by | May 23, 2019 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

Second Harvest and WXII News 12 recently held a town hall at the Hanes Theatre in downtown Winston-Salem. At Hunger and Health: Making the Connection we took a deep dive into how the issues of food insecurity impact individual and community health while exploring remedies and solutions. We were joined by a panel of community members, from people with lived experience with food insecurity to health care professionals who see the impact of hunger every day in their work. Meet the panelists below:

Deepak Palakshappa, MD MSHP
Wake Forest School of Medicine
Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics

Deepak Palakshappa, MD MSHP

In your work, what is your role in connection with feeding health? I am an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at Wake Forest School of Medicine. As a practicing internist and pediatrician at the Wake Forest Downtown Health Plaza, I routinely see how limited access to healthy food impacts patients’ health and well-being. My research also focuses on improving the health outcomes of low-income and vulnerable populations. I am particularly interested in understanding how health systems can most effectively address food insecurity and other social determinants of health.

What do you see as the most important health challenges facing our communities?
Understanding how health systems, organizations in the community, and individuals can work together to address patients’ unmet social needs is a major challenge to improving chronic disease management.

Why did you say “Yes!” to participating in this town hall? I am excited to be participating in this town hall to learn more about how hunger impacts health from individuals in the community.


Arleatha Patterson
Age-Friendly Forsyth
Community Engagement Coordinator

Arleatha Patterson

In your work, what is your role in connection with feeding health? Age-Friendly Forsyth connects, informs, and engages aging adults and community partners to create a livable community through collaborative planning and action, with the vision that aging adults are living their best lives. One of the key focus areas of the initiative is physical and mental health, with indicators that assess food access and security among the aging adult population. As a Community Engagement Coordinator, I work with community members throughout the county to assess health-related needs as they relate to food access and security, among several other contributing factors.

What do you see as the most important health challenges facing our communities? An extensive research collaborative phase took place throughout the County in 2016-2017 to assess the state of aging in our community. Besides food access, key findings from these research activities related specifically to health include that most aging adults are facing wellness-related challenges such as not consuming enough fruits and vegetables, not exercising enough, experiencing pain as a barrier to exercise and daily activities, and falls that result in injury. Other important health challenges facing aging adult communities include: transportation barriers and healthcare access, respite for caregivers, navigating the healthcare system, and awareness of services and resources available in the county.

Why did you say “Yes!” to participating in this town hall? Raising awareness to engage, inspire, and empower aging adults to live well is a passion of mine. There are many seniors that must decide between paying for medicine, meals, or rent on a consistent basis. I want the community to know that WE are the answer to bridging those gaps between services provided to seniors.

Tamara Smith
Novant Health Community Engagement
Senior Director of Strategy, Business Performance
& Compliance

Tamara Smith

In your work, what is your role in connection with feeding health? Traditionally, hospitals have been geared toward treating people once they are already sick with a diagnosis and medication, but this role is changing. We know we must think innovatively about caring for the whole patient–look beyond the numbers in the medical record and gain an understanding of the issues that may be driving poor health outcomes. Individuals living in food deserts or who are food insecure have poorer health outcomes and higher incidence of chronic disease. In my role, I am responsible for identifying enterprise solutions for addressing food insecurity for our patients, and working collaboratively with other partners to identify ways we can help improve health for residents living in food deserts and individuals who are food insecure.

What do you see as the most important health challenges facing our communities?
A person’s zip code. In the United States, our communities have a painful past of racial segregation that affected the flow and distribution of resources in many communities. The result of that is that today, a person’s zip code is a greater predictor of health than a person’s genetic code. A person’s zip code as a predictor of their health is a social injustice, and is, in my opinion, the most important health challenge facing our communities.

Why did you say “Yes!” to participating in this town hall? Because I believe in healthcare as a human right, and I believe in the power of community to help us achieve that vision. I believe in the power of food as a tool for better health, and that no human should ever have to choose between their health and what they eat. Lastly, I do not believe we have a food “lack” problem in America, I believe we have a food distribution problem in America. And creatively and collectively, I believe we can fix our food distribution problem and create a healthier future for all.

Renai Wisley
Imagine Forsyth, Second Harvest Food Bank
Community Engagement Coordinator

Renai Wisley

In your work, what is your role in connection with feeding health? My role as Community Engagement Coordinator is to listen to people in the community and facilitate conversations about creating systemic change around health and wellness in Forsyth County.

What do you see as the most important health challenges facing our communities? The most important health challenge our community is facing is threefold: lack of access, lack of knowledge on how to self-advocate, and lack of exposure on alternatives to traditional approaches.

Why did you say “Yes!” to participating in this town hall? Because I am a community member and an advocate for all people who look and live like me, every time I have a chance to speak for us, I will.

To view the full Town Hall broadcast, click here.

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