Betty Skaggs visited Vallerga’s this past Friday for groceries but left with something equally important – suggestions from a doctor about how she could make healthier food choices to combat her pre-diabetes.

The advice came courtesy of Abhijit Adhye, M.D., of St. Joseph Health Medical Group.

In a new effort to combat obesity rates and focus on preventive health, Dr. Adhye and other medical professionals visited Vallerga’s Market on Friday.

Hosted by doctors and educators from St. Joseph Health, Queen of the Valley Medical Center and St. Joseph Health Medical Group, the event offered Napans a chance to “Shop with Your Doc” in the place where important everyday health decisions are often made: the neighborhood supermarket.

“The grocery store is where most people decide what they and their families eat every week. A few small changes can make a big difference in our health and energy levels,” said Dr. Adhye.

“Nutrition labels can be confusing, and knowing how to navigate the details is the first step towards improving eating habits and promoting overall health.”

Skaggs said that since she learned she’s pre-diabetic, she’s eating more salads. However, she wasn’t sure which dressings were the best choices.

She and the doctor made their way to the condiments aisle where the physician showed her food labels and discussed the ingredients.

“We all feel healthy eating a salad,” Adhye told Skaggs, but if you use too much dressing, it can ruin the health benefits of the salad.

The physician suggested she should review the amount of sugar, fat and sodium in various salad dressings.

Having a doctor to stand with her and actually help her pick out food in the grocery store is a wonderful idea, said Skaggs.

“It certainly educates people,” she said. “I want to do everything I can” to prevent her pre-diabetes from getting worse.

Shopper Laurie Gholson visited with Dr. Susana Gonzalez during the Shop with Your Doc event. Gholson didn’t need help with shopping, but she did need some suggestions of which Napa primary care doctors are accepting new patients.

“It’s been frustrating” trying to find a new doctor, Gholson said. “She gave me a couple names,” she said. “That was helpful.”

Doug Long of Lake Berryessa also applauded Shop with Your Doc.

“I think it’s a great thing,” he said. “I get behind a lot of people at the grocery store and I see what they have in their cart and I just shake my head.”

Catherine Schoen of Napa specifically visited Vallerga’s to ask one of the doctors about how Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) affects nutrition and eating habits.

“I’m very grateful to have this available,” she said. “It’s a great idea.”

A doctor can give all kinds of suggestions during an office appointment, but visiting with people outside of the office “gives us a chance to see the food choices our patients are making,” said Gonzalez.

In addition, “It’s great to let our patients identify with us as real people.”

Instead of just seeing a doctor when you’re sick, “We want to create other opportunities where the public can connect with physicians as partners in health,” said St. Joseph Health representative Vanessa deGier.

According to the most recent Napa County Community Health Needs Assessment, 40 percent of fifth-, seventh- and ninth-grade students and 60 percent of adults in Napa County are overweight or obese, which puts them at an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and other health problems.

At a time when more and more food products promise health benefits and sport flashy labels, Shop with Your Doc helps residents navigate the grocery store and make the best choices for their families, said a news release from St. Joseph Health.

“Shoppers have so many choices inside the market, and we want them to be able to make the most nutritious decisions they can,” said Chris Vallerga Burns of Vallerga’s Market.

The events are part of St. Joseph Health’s focus on “population health” – a concept aimed at improving the health of entire communities, not just hospitalized patients.

By focusing on prevention and urging patients to make better decisions about their everyday health through the adoption of responsible eating habits, health care providers can help combat obesity and other health challenges, said the release.

On Monday, Christina Harris, Queen of the Valley’s communications and marketing coordinator, said that more than 50 people stopped at the Shop with Your Doc informational table during the three-hour event.

“We are very pleased with the success of Napa’s first-ever Shop With Your Doc event,” Harris said.

“By bringing care providers out of the hospital and clinic and into the neighborhood supermarket, Napa residents had the opportunity to learn the basics of smart shopping, such as reading nutrition labels and navigating the store.”

St. Joseph Health said it will be sponsoring additional Shop with Your Doc events elsewhere in California this fall.

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