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How has COVID-19 Impacted Your Work?

September 16, 2020

Author: Marissa Lustri, MPH, RD, Program Assistant at Nutrition Connections

Welcome back to the third post in our series ‘How has COVID-19 Impacted your Work?’. For this post I had the privilege to speak with Valerie Manbeck, a registered dietitian (RD) at the Scarborough Health Network – Centenary site. Manbeck works as an outpatient RD in their Central East Regional Cardiovascular Rehab (CERGR) Program. The CERGR is a service for patients living with cardiovascular disease, as well as patients who are high risk of developing cardiovascular disease1.

Patients can be referred to the program by their physician or can self-refer if they present with at least 3 of the risk factors on the Referral Form. Once patients are accepted they are able to start the six-month program to help “improve their quality of life through supervised exercise, education and guided lifestyle changes”1. In doing so, patients are offered support by Manbeck, as well as expertise from exercise therapists and pharmacists1

The regional program supports patients residing across a variety of Ontario towns and cities, including; Scarborough, Pickering, Ajax, Whitby, Oshawa, Bowmanville, Cobourg, Port Perry, Lindsay, Bobcaygeon, and Peterborough. Prior to COVID-19, each area had at least one physical site, or two, where they would run their sessions. According to Manbeck, not everyone was able to access nutrition education when the program was operating this way.

Prior to COVID-19, the CERGR was ran in person, however like the rest of Canada, the program was required to pivot their offerings and begin remote program delivery in order to comply with public health recommendations. The team came together and developed a website that would allow them to continue serving their patient population under their newfound circumstances. The new online learning platform is called Central East Regional Cardiovascular Rehab.

Moving the program to a centralized online platform now allows patients to access live education and exercise sessions, as well as pre-recorded videos and helpful resources. According to Manbeck, the online platform has the ability to reach more patients than previously possible when running the CERGR in person, and has increased the frequency of education delivery.

As a new RD myself, I found it interesting to speak with Manbeck and hear how COVID-19 is changing people’s eating habits, rather than just reading about them in various online media reports. Manbeck identified that prior to the pandemic her patients often followed busy schedules which resulted in frequent eating out, and created a barrier to healthy eating. However, Manbeck is now hearing that due to COVID-19 more patients are eating home cooked meals, and eating out less. Though there have been some positive eating behaviour changes triggered by the pandemic, it has also caused a great deal of stress which has resulted in more comfort eating. It will be interesting to see how and if the pandemic will result in changes to food literacy levels, and if new formed habits will be long lasting.

In summary, though COVID-19 has presented various challenges to the previous way of CERGR’s operations, they came together and created an alternative mode of program delivery to continue supporting their patients in meeting their program goals.


  1. Scarborough Health Unit. Cardiovascular Rehab [Internet]. Available from:


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