Sue Daugherty – Our #Health Hero


Philadelphia’s health blog staple – Be Well Philly of Philadelphia Magazine has announced its 16 semi-finalist for their annual Health Hero Challenge. Out of over 500 entries, MANNA’s Executive Director, Sue Daugherty was named one of the 16. Voters can start voting and showing their support on September 10th when voting begins. Voters are allowed to vote once a day – every day until September 16th when voting for Sue’s round ends. We sat down with Sue to find out what she thinks about the nomination and what she is doing to make MANNA a health hero to thousands of ill neighbors throughout the greater Philadelphia area. Make sure to Like Be Well Philly’s Facebook page to be able to vote!

How did you feel when you found out you were nominated and a semi-finalist for the Be Well Philly Health Hero?

I was shocked and honored. What a great forum for me to talk about MANNA and the work we do.

What is your idea of what a Health Hero means?

Someone who takes seriously their role in learning and understanding what being healthy means and spreads that message.   Your health needs to be a lifelong commitment that requires discipline.

MANNA focuses on nutrition and food as medicine and you have been a key force in the science of the MANNA meals. Could you speak more about what “food as medicine means”?

I often tell patients that your body is like a car – if you don’t put gas in it you are not going anywhere. You may splutter along for a little while, but eventually without the proper fuel, you aren’t going to get too far. Like a car, you need to fuel your body with good nutrition as the foundation and base for all your treatments.  The prescription bottle and its contents are next to useless without certain nutrition standards met first.

Speaking of food as medicine, MANNA was recently published in The Journal of Primary Medicine and Community Health: Examining Health Care Costs Among MANNA Clients and a Comparison Group. What were the key finds from the research?

Keeping someone nourished in the home is saving significant health care cost – study results.  MANNA clients who received complete nutrition cost the health care system less, are hospitalized for less days and when discharged they are more likely to be discharged to home versus sub-acute or long term care.

When did your love/passion for health begin?

Hmm, I think my passion began early in my profession working with the HIV/AIDS population.  I always had an interest and studied nutrition.  I knew it was important, but I don’t think I really fully understood its impact until I saw patients fighting for their lives first hand.  I was watching patients wasting away/dying from AIDS – but over and over again I saw patients that were nourished and physically strong able to tolerate their treatments better.  It was at this time that I started to talk about food as medicine. I counseled my patients to think of food as a pill and just like you needed to take your pills at a certain time it was just as critical to eat at regular times.

What do you believe is the best way to stay healthy?

I think everything in moderation and balance.  Eating healthy and physical exercise should be part of your life routine but not rule your life.  Too many times I’ve made the mistake of going on a “diet” or some intense exercise regimen.  The problem with diets and crazy workouts is their not sustainable; there is a start and an end.  Often when you fail (missing a day at the gym or eating a “forbidden” food) you feel bad about it and end up eating worse or not working out at all.  It really is a balance for me – it is a routine but it’s okay to take a day off.

Besides good nutrition, do you do anything else to stay healthy?

For me health is defined by a lot.  Yes, good nutrition and regular exercise (the kind that makes you sweat) are important.  Just as important for me is laughter and not taking life too seriously.  It’s so easy to get caught up in work demands and my profession is important to my mental health and my identity, but sometimes you just have to have a good laugh and usually it’s at myself – I have 7 nieces and nephews who are all under the age of 11 and I have to tell you they are pretty good at keeping me in check!

What is your favorite exercise?

Running is therapy for me and always surprises me – I’ve been running for the past 20 years and I still can’t predict a good or bad run?  Spin is another favorite exercise – I love the music!

Who is your personal health hero?

Patricia Sola founder of Hope Initiative – Namibia, Southwest Africa.  In 2007 I had the honor of traveling to Namibia with a small team to work with Patricia to help develop nutrition programs for OVC’s (orphans and vulnerable children) living in squatter settlements. Patricia was an inspiration and continues to be.

Who or what makes you motivated to stay healthy?

MANNA clients – they are fighting for their life.  I know what a gift my health is – I never take it for granted and want to do everything in my power to ensure I continue a healthy lifestyle.

How do you treat yourself? Any forbidden foods that you just can’t stay away from?

Of course, I don’t believe in forbidden foods – my belief is “all foods fit.”   I would have to say that Chickie and Pete’s crab fries with cheese sauce are my favorite.

While eating out, what’s your trick on watching your calorie intake with all of Philadelphia’s amazing restaurants around?

I hardly ever order an entrée for myself – I love to share or get a salad and an appetizer for my meal.

What is your favorite MANNA pie?

Sky Pie