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Atlanta Food Bank - Emory PA class of 2016 project


Experiential Learning Helps PA Students Better Understand Food Insecurity


The Class of 2016 recently toured the Atlanta Community Food Bank (ACFB) to learn more about the intersection of good nutrition, food insecurity and health. As part of the students’ Endocrinology course module, the class participated in a new experiential learning session designed by staff nutritionists and health educators at the ACFB.  Students took part in a simulation exercise to enhance their classroom learning about health disparities and the barriers patients often face when trying to implement dietary and other lifestyle recommendations. 

 Each PA student assumed the role of a patient and was given a monthly “income” on which to live.  During the role play, students were expected to be able to use an allotted amount of money for the day to feed their family (for example: a single mother of three who makes $1700 a month who does not own a car, and who after paying for diabetes medications only had $1.50 a day left to feed herself and children). Students were tasked with figuring out the best way to use their budget to obtain the most healthy foods while also managing funds to use and pay for public transportation, attempting to qualify for other public assistance benefits, and accessing other local community resources. Students were assigned a reflective paper to help process the experience.  

PA Student Megan Timpone remarked that the field trip allowed her to better understand the challenges that many patients face, “There are people with chronic diseases who are not even getting the required caloric intake to sustain their current body weight, let alone get adequate nutrition. Clinicians are quick to give nutritional advice and even reprimand patients when they haven’t been successful at making dietary changes…We often fail to look at the big picture…It’s not always that patients are purposely being “non-compliant…” Sometimes they simply can’t afford the foods they know they should eat. It may be less expensive for them to by the processed high calorie, high carbohydrate goods.  I really came away with the lesson that as PA clinicians we can’t just assume that our patients will be able to follow our treatment recommendations….We really need to get to know our patients and ask about their access to food and meet them at their level, then help them move along to a healthier lifestyle.”  

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