With CleanMed 2013 having wrapped up last week in Boston, and spring farmers markets in full swing throughout most of the country, now seems like a good time to discuss the strides being made in hospitals nationwide to serve healthier foods — and the sometimes unexpected benefit to the bottom line.
A recent column in Hospitals & Health Networks says no fewer than 431 U.S. hospitals have signed Health Care Without Harm's Healthy Food in Health Care pledge.
According to Heath Care Without Harm, “taking the pledge to support procurement of local, nutritious, sustainably produced food demonstrates a commitment to ‘first, do no harm’ as part of a whole hospital approach to preventive medicine that protects the health of patients, staff and communities.”
The hospitals that have taken this pledge have seen the changes they made impact their communities in a variety of ways. For example, according to the article, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center participates in Healthy Food in Health Care's Healthy Beverage Program. The program bans any canned, bottled or fountain beverage that's sweetened with sugar or an artificial substitute.
Since the sugar ban went into effect, Dartmouth-Hitchcock calculates more than 4.7 million calories have been eliminated from the diets of patients, staffers and visitors, which means almost 1,400 pounds of body weight have been avoided, the article says.
And the benefits don’t end with improved health. According to the article, changing how a hospital purchases food (sourcing locally) and what kinds of foods are purchased (fewer red meats, more vegetables) can also mean a cost savings for hospital food service. A notable consideration, when U.S. healthcare institutions collectively spend approximately $12 billion annually on food and beverages.
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