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Today’s Research – Medical center-based farmers markets improve health

Researchers at Penn State College of Medicine are actively working in Hershey, with colleagues at Penn State, University Park and other Penn State campuses, and with colleagues at various institutions across the country to conduct groundbreaking research. Their discoveries continue to contribute to the advancement of health care on all levels.

Farmers market illustrationFarmers markets at medical centers may contribute to greater wellness in surrounding communities while adding public health value to a market’s mission, say College of Medicine researchers who have developed and evaluated a market created at the Medical Center.

“Farmers markets are serving public health by increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, revitalizing neighborhoods, strengthening local economies, and empowering community members to learn more about the items they buy,” said Daniel George, Ph.D., M.Sc., assistant professor, Department of Humanities.

A growing national trend is creating partnerships that strengthen the abilities of medical centers and clinics to provide complete, patient-centered care and serve community health through farmers markets. Of the 7,175 known farmers markets in the U.S. more than 100 are located on medical center campuses. George and colleagues from the Division of Internal Medicine recently reported the results of their case study in the American Journal of Public Health. Efforts to promote healthy eating and lifestyle practices in the community in supermarkets, schools, and work sites often show promising short-term effects.

However, these programs often face personnel and resource challenges that stem largely from lack of long-term funding. Medical center markets provide opportunities for nursing and medical students and residents to develop their health screening and program management skills, for researchers and graduate students interested in evaluating market-based initiatives, and volunteers committed to improving community health. In addition, market vendors can contribute to this sustainability through health-related programming such as healthy food demonstrations, and distributing healthy recipes.

Through this sustainable commitment, programs have a better chance to support long-term health benefits for customers. Community wellness programming through health professional-led activities that promote public health education is a major strategic focus that differentiates the Farmers Market in Hershey from other markets. Three rent-free booths are reserved each week for community health outreach. Researchers say the characteristics of market customers, the barriers to attending, and the effectiveness of the market need to be evaluated more closely.

>> Read more about the research

>> To hear a podcast interview with George, visit the Medical Center’s podcast page.

>> Follow the Farmer’s Market in Hershey on Facebook

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