Weis Markets bets on chronic care
Last spring, as part of the grand opening of a new flagship location, Weis Markets placed an in-store dietitian’s office adjacent to the pharmacy, with only a mutual private consultation room separating the two.
That not only enabled shoppers at that Enola, Pa.-based store to schedule a consultation with the in-store dietitian, but also helped pharmacy patients make a profound connection. Not only can they pick up their prescriptions here, they can discuss ways to improve their health through better food choices, too.
Weis Markets planned to hire more full-time dietitians to serve across its 206-store footprint in the past year. Working together, the company’s dietitians and pharmacists may one day represent a critical pairing in helping to boost metrics across the Five-Star Quality Rating System created by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Toward that end, Weis Markets’ dietitian in the Lewisburg, Pa., area began working with local healthcare providers on diabetic workshops last year, said Rick Seep, vice president of pharmacy at Weis Markets, during an early-morning tour of the store with Drug Store News at the time of its opening.
The new store featured the latest shelf labels, featuring Weis Markets’ “NutriFacts” program, which represents a guide to healthier eating with labels that call out heart-healthy foods or gluten-free options to shoppers perusing the aisles. The store also featured Weis Markets’ “Nourish Your Gut” program, which identifies such foods that can boost gut health as whole wheat breads or other sources of probiotics.
Albertsons tackles nutrition on various fronts
The value of dietitians is nothing new to officials at Albertsons.
Now, with the pending acquisition of Rite Aid and its Health Dialog subsidiary, which helps implement comprehensive population health management programs, its efforts around nutrition could ratchet up, both at standalone drug units and at the grocery stores.
Albertsons utilizes dietitians in two ways. First, the Boise, Idaho-based grocery chain delivers diabetes and prediabetes tours throughout the year via its contracted network of more than 100 registered dietitians. “Many of them also conduct healthy aging cooking and tasting classes as part of our flu vaccine clinics,” said Chris Irmscher, group director of pharmacy human resources at Albertsons. “We also have a small number of dietitians conducting innovative, themed demonstrations each month.”
Albertsons’ dietitians engage customers through the company’s “Answers in the Aisles” program, where dietitians schedule supermarket walk-throughs to educate participants on how to best fight inflammation through food, how to cook using only low-carb ingredients or how to help manage diabetes through better food choices.
Weight management, diabetes, heart health and COPD all can be improved through the assistance of a dietitian, officials said. “In 2018, we also are on pace to reach more than 5,000 people with prediabetes and diabetes through our ‘Eating Healthy with Diabetes Tours,’” Irmscher said.
“Customer and community response has been extremely positive. As the programs grow and mature, our customers will have access to food and nutrition experts right in the aisles of their favorite neighborhood store,” Irmscher said. “For example, [according to] surveys conducted one month after our ‘Healthy Aging Cooking and Tasting’ pilot class last September, 100% of respondents said attending the complimentary cooking class improved their impression of both the grocery store and pharmacy. About 97% said they changed something about their food choices as a result of the class.”
This year, Albertsons is launching the CDC Diabetes Prevention Program, which is a 16-week program led by a dietitian, along with support from the store pharmacists. “Patients will sample and discover new, healthy foods, and can work with the dietitian to create a more individualized meal/diet assistance, and the pharmacists [are on hand] to better manage health conditions and medication,” Irmscher said.
Giant Food’s chronic care through nutrition
To mark American Heart Month in February, Giant Food offered a complimentary “heart-healthy” store tour at Giant locations across Maryland, Delaware Virginia and the District of Columbia. The tours, led by Giant Food’s in-store nutritionists, helped identify such factors that impact heart health as fat and sodium, while also teaching tips and tricks for preparing heart-healthy meals.
“Modest diet and lifestyle changes can improve heart health and lower risk of cardiovascular disease by as much as 80%, according to the American Heart Association,” said Lisa Coleman, lead nutritionist at Giant Food. “Giant’s team of nutritionists are passionate about teaching shoppers how simple it can be to make healthy choices.”
Landover, Md.-based Giant Food offers consultations with its in-store nutritionists at a cost of $25. But that cost is recuperated by the shopper with the reward of a $25 Giant gift card at the end of the consultation, which they can, in turn, use to put their new-found nutrition knowledge to practice.
Additionally, the Giant Food nutritionists collaborate with the nearby pharmacy teams on many initiatives, including complimentary in-store diabetes management education classes, free in-store heart health education classes, which also are free, and workplace health initiatives. In fact, dietitians and pharmacists frequently work together to provide practical, relevant and up-to-date education surrounding such disease states as diabetes management and heart health at Giant Food, Coleman said.
“Customers are thrilled to learn that they can access the expertise and skills of registered and licensed dietitians at their local Giant,” Coleman said. “Giant is providing this service at the point of choice — at the shelves, where families are making decisions about food. An experienced retail dietitian can guide families toward healthier options and provide recommendations, while considering a family’s budget, lifestyle, personal preferences and health goals.”