Gloria Fishburn: Help for Older Adults

Recognizing the needs of the aging population in San Francisco and armed with a passion for community health, Gloria Fishburn began her work with Meals on Wheels of San Francisco eight years ago and hasn’t looked back.

“It is a fact that nutrition starts from the period of life conception up to the end of the life cycle,” she says. That’s why it’s so important to her to provide access to healthful foods to the nearly 2,500 older adults with limited income and younger people with disabilities who she serves.

Fishburn, who started her dietetic career in the Philippines, says the most important work she does is implementing health interventions related to obesity in older adults, and addressing multiple chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and cancer through healthy meals, nutrition education and counseling.

Tell us about your work. Who are your audiences? What need does this work help serve?
I am employed at Meals on Wheels of San Francisco (MOWSF) currently serving a population of 2,351 homebound seniors 60 years old and over; 80 younger adults with disabilities and 86 home delivered groceries clients. I also serve 29 clients enrolled in the San Francisco Transitional Care Program, which is a two-week meal program for newly hospital discharged patients, in contract with several health insurance groups in San Francisco. MOWSF is a non-profit agency with a mission to provide isolated homebound seniors in San Francisco with nutritious meals, daily human contact, and supportive services to prevent their premature institutionalization. 

In my role I provide nutrition counseling and education to homebound seniors who are at high nutritional risk due to their health, nutritional history, dietary intake, prescription medications, chronic illnesses and physiologic functions related to age. My goal is to provide ways and means to improve their nutritional status and decrease medical complications to further maintain their independence. I also perform client visits as requested by high risk clients.

In addition, I help provide accurate and culturally sensitive nutrition information and instructions to seniors to promote better health and arrange nutrition lectures to a non-profit agency (Filipino Cancer Survivors group) in San Francisco.

Overall, I create care plans that include interventions, expected outcomes and monitor strategies. 

What inspired you to undertake this work?
As a member of the health care profession I felt the need to immerse myself to provide proper nutrition to maintain the health of the booming geriatric population in San Francisco. I also believe that enormous numbers of older adults lack access to food needed, with limited income, and our MOWSF is very instrumental and proactive in looking after the clients’ welfare. Most importantly, I provide and implement health interventions related to obesity in older adults, and address multiple chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and cancer through healthy meals, nutrition education and counseling.

What do you personally find most rewarding about your efforts?
It is very rewarding, and I feel the sense of professional accomplishment and success when I am able to motivate a client to change his or her dietary habits. I also get feedback from clients stating how their health has improved with our services, by getting all the needed diet instructions related to their health problems and all needed health information. When a client shows her appreciation for what I have done, I feel gratified and fulfilled knowing I have accomplished my goal.

What about food, diet, nutrition or health drew you to this field?
I’ve always believed in the big impact of proper nutrition on the health of an individual. It is a fact that nutrition starts from the period of life conception up to the end of the life cycle. I truly enjoyed my hospital experience as a clinical dietitian before I migrated to the U.S. from the Philippines, because I had the chance to interact with all members of the health profession. Our profession offers unlimited opportunities to work in any chosen scope of practice. I chose the field of community nutrition.

Food & Nutrition Magazine
Food & Nutrition Magazine publishes articles on food and diet trends, highlights of nutrition research and resources, updates on public health issues and policy initiatives related to nutrition, and explorations of the cultural and social factors that shape Americans’ diets and health.