Date of Graduation

Spring 5-12-2017

Document Type

Project

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)

College/School

School of Nursing and Health Professions

First Advisor

Erin Grinchtyeyn

Second Advisor

Dhrubajyoti Bhattacharya

Abstract

Chronic disease is quickly overtaking infectious diseases as one of the biggest threats to population health worldwide (Egger, 2012). Studies have shown that plant based diets are effective at reducing prevalence but are also a viable complimentary treatment approach to healing. Further investigation is needed into how plant based diets can reduce risk of recurrence, specifically as it relates to a cancer diagnosis. The Ceres Project is an organization that provides a healing foods philosophy to the care of cancer patients through meal delivery programs at low to no cost. The aim of this research study was to implement the first trial of The Ceres Transition Program, which tested three treatment groups to determine what manner of additional support is needed for clients to establish a long-term dietary commitment to the Ceres food philosophy. A total of n=34 participants were randomly assigned to 4 groups, 3 treatment groups and a control that received only cash to use at the individual’s discretion. Two groups received three nutrition and cooking classes held over the course of eight weeks in conjunction with a cash stipend or vegetable box supplement. The final treatment group strictly received a vegetable box for eight weeks. Pre-post surveys were implemented to evaluate baseline and endline eating behaviors by phone. Although the study lacked adequate sample sizes, preliminary data suggested that both cooking skills and cooking attitudes improved over all three treatment groups. Increased sample sizes for the next trial will allow for further manipulation of the data to reveal specifics between class and control and whether fruit and vegetable consumption increased with the intervention. Lastly, it will be important to understand whether the dietary recommendations lasted past six months to a year thereby demonstrating a long-term behavior change. Implications for policy should focus on increasing SNAP EBT transfers for farmer’s markets to also include Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) deliveries to those living with cancer. The rationale for this is that a debilitating illness significantly effects energy levels necessary for shopping for and preparing healthy food due to cancer treatment. Eliminating this barrier may help to increase fruit and vegetables consumption during this challenging period. Finally, establishing programs that can offer nutrition and cooking education with a Food as Medicine philosophy should be incorporated into the treatment of chronic illness in primary care settings as it may help interrupt the progression of red flag markers into a confirmed diagnosis.

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