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Dietitian named Rural Health Practitioner of 2023

November 16, 2023

A widely respected registered dietitian at UHS Delaware Valley Hospital has received special recognition from the Rural Health Network of South Central New York. Grace Bartolillo, RN, CDN, has been named the Rural Health Practitioner of 2023 in conjunction with an annual observance, National Rural Health Day. The award is presented to a healthcare practitioner who works in rural communities and/or works to address rural health issues.

Ms. Bartolillo has enrolled 75 UHS DVH patients living with diet-related chronic diseases into the “Produce Rx” program. For the past two years, she has been an important partner not only in enrollment but also in gathering the data necessary to demonstrate that the Produce Rx intervention works. She also has been a champion of local produce, connecting her patients with the team from CCE-Delaware for healthy gardening and cooking classes.

“I am thrilled that we are able to offer the Rural Health Network's Produce Rx program to patients here,” Ms. Bartolillo said. “I have seen firsthand the positive impact that the program has on patients, including improved health outcomes and increased food security. Participants cannot say enough how thankful they are to have this benefit available to them and how much it truly helps improve their quality of life.” In accepting the award, she added: “On behalf of all of the hard work by the members and staff of the Rural Health Network and on behalf of the community members of Delaware County and the surrounding area, I am extremely honored to accept this award.”

Adults with very low food security are 53% more likely to have a chronic illness, and have 47% more emergency room visits and hospital admissions. Through the Produce Prescription Program of South Central New York, UHS DVH’s Ms. Bartolillo is working to prevent these and other impacts of high rates of food insecurity and diet-related disease by utilizing our region’s agricultural resources. Produce Rx allows healthcare providers in the community to write prescriptions for fresh fruits and vegetables to patients who are at risk or have been diagnosed with diet-related chronic illness. Patients receive vouchers to spend at local farmers’ markets, farmstands and other retail options – giving additional purchasing power to people who need it most. Participants receive support and education throughout the program, and can attend additional nutrition, cooking, gardening, and chronic disease self-management classes.

The Rural Health Network joins other state and national rural stakeholders in celebrating the 13th annual Rural Health Day on Nov. 16. Fourth annual Rural Health Awards have been presented to three recipients in addition to Ms. Bartolillo. They are: the Russell Farms produce retailer, Rural Health Champion; Sharon Chesna, retired executive director of the Mothers and Babies Perinatal Network, Rural Health Leader; and documentary filmmaker Brian Frey Productions, Rural Health Partner. The Rural Health Network was established in 1998 to advance the health and well-being of rural people and communities. The network’s expertise in rural issues, access to health services, chronic disease management and programs addressing transportation barriers, food security and aging, are widely recognized in the region.

The National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health was established in 1995 to assist state Offices of Rural Health in their efforts to improve access to, and the quality of, healthcare for 57 million rural Americans. The group is dedicated to collaboration, education, communication and innovation to improve health in small towns around the country. The national organization launched Rural Health Day to showcase rural America, increase awareness of rural health-related challenges and promote efforts to address challenges.