Fruit and vegetables on prescription: a brief intervention in primary care
Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption is a goal for the UK. Therefore, the effectiveness of a fruit and vegetable voucher scheme coupled with key ‘five-a-day’ consumption messages as a brief intervention in primary care consultations was assessed in the present study.
One thousand one hundred and eighty-eight vouchers as a prescription for fruits and vegetables were routinely distributed to patients attending a primary healthcare centre in a deprived area, and 124 volunteer patients routinely attending the centre were included. Telephone-based questionnaires were used to examine changes in consumption over the short and medium term. Other key aspects assessed in the evaluation related to fruit and vegetable purchasing behaviour, knowledge relating to what constitutes a portion size, the relationship between food and health, and barriers to consumption.
Although 76.2% of participants used the prescription vouchers when purchasing fruits and vegetables, a significant change in the consumption or purchasing behaviour was not observed (P > 0.05). Participants' level of knowledge relating to the number of portions recommended and the portion size of different fruits and vegetables showed a moderate increase from baseline over the short and medium term. The primary barriers to fruit and vegetable consumption were reported as ‘the quality of fresh fruits and vegetables’ and ‘the money available to spend on food’.
The use of ‘the fruit and vegetable on prescription’ scheme was an effective method of engaging participants in improving awareness of key diet-related health messages. However, further intervention is required to produce a significant impact on the actual behaviour change.