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by Scott Kashman and Larry Altier
Here's our simple question. Forget for a moment your own personal beliefs on whether you think we should eat healthier as a society. As healthcare leaders, do you think it's our obligation to offer healthier options in our healthcare organizations?
In September 2013, a bombshell report from Credit Suisse's Research Institute brought into sharp focus the staggering health consequences of sugar on the health of Americans. The group revealed that approximately 30 percent to 40 percent of healthcare expenditures in the United States help address issues that are closely tied to the excess consumption of sugar.
The figures suggest our national addiction to sugar runs us an incredible $1 trillion in healthcare costs each year. The Credit Suisse report highlighted several health conditions, including coronary heart diseases, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, which numerous studies have linked to excessive sugar intake. ("Bitter Truth About Sugar")
Here's a suggested approach for your consideration and feedback. Focus on the following five areas: Nutrition science, access, policy, price and education.
Should we offer more whole foods (no labels needed since the actual food is the only ingredient) and healthier options (non-genetically modified, few additives such as sugar, lower sodium, etc.)? Can we provide better access to get more whole foods and healthier options in our cafeterias, wellness centers and outpatient centers? Can we provide whole foods and healthier choices at lower cost than the comparable unhealthy choice? What's your healthier alternative for hamburger, chips, cookies and soda? How can you educate your patients, physicians, staff and visitors about nutrition?
What do you stand for as it relates to health, wellness and well-being? Do you have policies reflecting your organization's beliefs? That includes what you serve, the access you provide, the education and price. The alternative is just offering what you think people want as opposed to what you want to represent. There is not necessarily a right or wrong. It takes about two minutes for our community to understand what we stand for in an organization, whether it comes to service, care, safety and healthier living.
Our organization has made strides towards these areas above and it's just a start--we have a long way to go. Here are some of our efforts:
Applied nutrition science: We made several changes resulting in an increase in sales. We apply this mindset to our offerings and research better sources of "sustainable" products less influenced by pesticides, antibiotics and additives.
Policy and price:
Our organization is just in its infancy towards these changes. As healthcare leaders, do you think it is our obligation to offer healthier options in our healthcare organizations? We look forward to hearing your perspective.
Scott Kashman serves as the Chief Administrative Officer of Cape Coral Hospital, part of the Lee Memorial Health System in southwest Florida.
Larry Altier has served as System Director of Food and Nutrition for Lee Memorial Health System, employed since 1999. He has a B.S. in Hotel and Restaurant Administration from Florida State University and has been involved in the culinary arts his entire career.
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