Moving with Patients Toward Better Health

Many Arlington Free Clinic patients struggle with obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure—chronic conditions often connected to lifestyle. For the past several years, AFC has been working to develop an exercise and nutrition program that’s suitable for our patients and sensitive to their unique barriers to health.

It’s challenging to change habits even when you have sufficient resources, but our patients must overcome a number of hurdles to institute lifestyle changes. They often struggle to buy groceries, let alone healthy ones, and work multiple, physically demanding jobs that leave them with little energy or motivation to exercise.

Last year, we partnered with about 70 patients through our Move to Health (MtH) program to help them incorporate healthy habits into their lives. Conscious of the barriers they face, the program includes tailored guidance on nutrition, exercise, stress management, and sleep as foundational elements of healthier living. We’re even exploring ways to use technology so that patients can continue the program at home.

While the focus of MtH is on behavior change, not weight loss, we did find that patients who participated were three times more likely to lose weight than those who enrolled but weren’t able to participate.

MtH also ties in well with a new Fatty Liver Disease (FLD) care management program at AFC. FLD is a chronic condition caused by too much fat stored in the liver cells and is increasingly common among our patients as well as the broader US population. If left untreated, FLD can be quite serious, occasionally leading to cirrhosis and liver failure (an effect similar to that caused by heavy alcohol consumption). Improved liver tests, lower triglycerides, better sleep, and increased stamina are some of the benefits that our MtH participants have experienced. It’s easy to see how these individual changes will positively impact the wider community when our patients provide healthier meals for their families and encourage friends and family to join in on exercise classes.

Our conference room is consistently packed on Move to Health nights with people who show up to improve their health despite the significant personal, work, and transportation barriers—it’s incredibly inspiring.

Joan Bowes Ritter, MD
Medical Director

Read our entire 2019 Annual Report here.

Susana: From 12 Medications to Healthy & Strong
An Epic Transition to a New Electronic Health Record System
AFC Highlights, July 1, 2018 – June 30, 2019
Volunteer Profile: María Teresa
Why We Support Arlington Free Clinic: Dana & Ray Koch
Practice Spotlight: Novant Health Imaging
Board Chair’s Letter