Center for Health Equity


American Heart Association awards $447,480 to Produce Rx Study with High-Risk Pregnant Mothers at Harris Health

Published: January 29, 2024

Photo of produce box filled with colorful fruits and vegetables.

AHA has awarded $447,480 to Produce Prescriptions with high-risk pregnant moms at Harris Health System. This is a collaboration among Harris Health, Brighter Bites, and Planet Harvest to supply fresh fruits and vegetables for expecting mothers at high risk for poor birth outcomes.   

Providers will recruit high-risk mothers at health centers/clinics operated by Harris Health, the safety-net healthcare provider for uninsured and underinsured residents in Harris County. Patients are then randomly assigned to two groups.    

Patients in the control group will receive biweekly deliveries of 20 pounds of fresh produce plus standard nutrition education materials consisting of infographics as well as online videos, recipes, and nutrition tips accessed via QR code.

Women in the intervention group will receive the same resources as the control group along with access to a smartphone app that allows them to interact with an AI Chatbot that provides real-time cooking suggestions. Patients will have access to the app up to six months after pregnancy.

Planet Harvest, which moves excess produce to places with limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables, will supply the home-delivered food. Brighter Bites, a non-profit dedicated to providing nutrition education among school-aged children and their families, will coordinate the delivery of products.

The evaluation will measure patients’ weight gain before, during, and after the pregnancy. The study additionally examines food security status, diet quality, mental and physical health status, and the incidence of gestational diabetes and pregnancy hypertension.

AHA’s funding will support the implementation of the smartphone app. Evaluators will compare outcomes among the two groups examining if the interactive features of this smartphone app are linked to more significant improvements in the measures.

In September 2023 the AHA released the Presidential Advisory on Food is Medicine, which principal investigator and Center for Health Equity Director, Shreela Sharma, PhD, RD, LD, helped write. The advisory includes a ten-year roadmap for Food is Medicine initiatives.

AHA has awarded funds to studies across the county to gain insight on best implementation practices over the next 18 months to engage large pools of patients and improve short-term eating patterns. The results from this first round will inform strategies for funding larger-scale evaluations in the future with the long-term goal of providing extensive coverage of Food is Medicine to millions in the U.S. living with chronic conditions.

Co-investigator on this grant includes Nalini Ranjit, PhD.