Dr. Sharma is a trained dietitian and physical therapist. As a health professional, she strongly felt she was treating preventable diseases stemming from poor lifestyles: heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. She saw the repercussions were devastating the community. Her love for teaching, academics and the community led her to purse a PhD in public health, focusing on epidemiology. Her interest is in nutrition and physical activity-based interventions to address obesity via school, family, and the community, predominantly in low-income minority populations. She co-found Brighter Bites, a partner program of the Houston Food Bank, and serves on the Mayor of Houston’s Go Healthy Houston Task Force.
She is currently working on Healthy Eating Active Living (HE/AL). Dr. Sharma explains, “HE/AL is designed to promote healthy birth outcomes and prevent maternal and childhood obesity among low-income Medicaid patients. The project will use evidence-based strategies from Brighter Bites, Legacy of Health and The Happy Kitchen/La Cocina Alegre to promote breastfeeding and physical activity among pregnant women and women with infants. Families will receive free group education classes (nutrition, cooking, and exercise) and 30 lbs of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables weekly for 12 weeks. We will be tracking the effect of the program on maternal weight gain during pregnancy, gestational diabetes, pregnancy induced hypertension, infant birth weight, breastfeeding, and infant weight gain in the first year of life.”
This project is a collaborative effort to impact eating behavior among predominantly low-income families by introducing them to a routine distribution of fresh produce and corresponding education, ultimately to curb the childhood obesity epidemic.
Residents of North Pasadena, Texas, struggling with food insecurity who obtained “prescriptions” for healthy food from their clinic providers were able to boost their intake of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, beans, and whole grains, in another example of the food as medicine movement that also illustrates some of the challenges with these efforts.
Houston, TX organization Brighter Bites is helping communities in food swamps by empowering food-insecure families themselves to organize for a better food future. “They’re helping to be helped. All those touchpoints with the families create communities through fresh food,” says Brighter Bites co-founder Lisa Helfman.
Inspired by the hugely successful Tech 100, Business Insider is launching its first ever Food 100 — a ranking of the 100 coolest people in the world of food and drink, with a particular focus on Europe and North America.