By: Ben Keeton
This month, Medical News is taking a closer look at various programs across the state that are working to address Social Determinants of Health that create health disparities. Many hospitals have programs to help patients better manage their medical conditions while addressing barriers to good health, such as problems with transportation, lack of access to healthy food and connection with a primary care doctor.
The Healthy Food Initiative at KentuckyOne Health is working specifically on access to healthy food options within the hospital, as well as in the community. This program is part of the Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI) Food and Nutrition Services national program partnered with Sodexo. Goals of the initiative are to promote healthier eating by providing consistent high quality, nutritious foods in conjunction with increased nutrition education and promotion.
We talked with Alice Bridges, vice president, healthy communities at KentuckyOne Health, and Amanda Goldman, division director of the CHI National Food Services Program for the central and eastern Kentucky market, to find out how they are trying to create greater wellness across the state – starting with employees, patients and visitors. Highlights are below.
Medical News: How will the Healthy Food Initiative change access to healthy foods for patients?
Amanda Goldman: Our patient menus offer a wide variety of delicious, healthy foods. In fact, our menus are built to offer at least 90 percent wellness-based items. Through our prior work with the Partnership for a Healthier America and the current Healthy Food Initiative, our hospitals offer nutritious menu options that nurture the individuals and families we serve to create healthier communities.
MN: How will this initiative help change healthy eating behaviors for patients once they leave the hospital?
AG: Our menus are designed to be used as a teaching tool in addition to listing the food items that we offer to our patients. They are primarily wellness-based and selections are designated as healthy options and include carbohydrate counts for individuals who need to monitor their intake.
In addition to the menu, our clinical dietitians are also able to provide additional nutrition education for our patients and their family members. If budgetary issues are a concern, they can assist with suggestions for grocery shopping on a restricted budget.
Our clinical dietitians can provide nutrition education to our patients and family members while they are in the hospital. In addition, through our Diabetes and Nutrition Care program, registered dietitians can counsel and educate individuals on a general, healthful diet as an outpatient. Often, much of this information can be used as nutrition education for the family as well.
MN: How do you see the Healthy Food Initiative growing across all hospitals?
AG: It is our goal that the Healthy Food Initiative continues to grow and mature throughout facilities across the country. Our initiative includes several elements that focus on healthier eating and nutrition education to work towards building healthier communities.
Alice Bridges: We are also taking steps to improve access to fresh, healthy foods in the communities served by our hospitals. In Louisville, this includes an urban farm project designed to pilot a farm to hospital table focus that puts local produce on the hospital menu while supporting local farmers and creating a new market for institutional sales.