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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Promoting Healthy Nutrition

"There is a recognition that we can be better role models."
"That is what this is striving to do."
Laurie Dojeiji, network manager, Champlain Hospitals regional cardiovascular disease prevention

"[Hospital officials are] working closely with Tim Hortons, and we have been really happy with their interest in coming to the table and trying to work through it [requirement to provide more wholesome food in area hospitals]. I'm not sure which way it will go."
"They haven't said yes, but they haven't said no -- the door is still open. I would hope that we will get to a place where Tom Hortons will remove their doughnuts. But there may come a day where, if Tim Hortons can't get there, then maybe there won't be Tims in the hospitals."
Carolyn Brennan, vice-president, corporate and diagnostic services, Queensway Carleton Hospital, Ottawa

"Our CEO at the time was adamant. If they [Tim Hortons franchise] wanted to stay with us we would love to have them but there would have to be some changes. They eventually said yes."
Jane Pryor, director of operations support, Nova Scotia Health Authority, Central Zone
In an effort to get rid of unhealthy food, the Queensway-Carleton Hospital turned their deep fryers into planters and are putting pressure on the Tim Hortons outlet at the hospital to go healthy too. Julie Oliver / Ottawa Citizen
Hospitals in central Nova Scotia introduced a program about five years ago, to ensure that food served on hospital premises passed guidelines for nutritional value. As a result Tim Hortons, which had the hospital hospitality franchise there serves muffins, tea biscuits and trail mix cookies along with the coffee they are so valued for, at hospitals there. Doughnuts are no longer served.

The Tim Hortons chain also has outlets in seven hospitals across the Champlain LHIN [Local Health Integration Network] region. And the region has initiated a nutritional health program named Healthy Foods in Champlain Hospitals. The goal is to finally set an example of good, wholesome food being served in hospitals, a marked change from what hospital fare has been in the past. No longer will unhealthy food and drink choices be the norm when the program is finally fully in place.

There are twenty Eastern Ontario Hospitals involved, from Cornwall to Deep River which have, along with Ottawa, signed on to the program to have healthier food served in hospital cafeterias, gift shops and franchise outlets. Seven of those hospitals have concluded the initial phase of the program, with the remaining 13 set to do the same by year's end. This spells the death knell for deep-fried food.

When the third and final phase of the initiative has been implemented, no longer will junk food, processed meats, fried food, soft drinks and the vast assortment of high-sugar, high-sodium, high-fat foods be accessed at LHIN hospitals. Ottawa obesity specialist Yoni Freedhoff and cardiologist Dr. Rob Stevenson had editorialized in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in 2008 that hospitals should pledge to rid themselves of deep fryers, to begin introducing healthy foods.

"These first steps in cafeteria reform will help hospitals renew their focus on health and put an end to deep-fried hypocrisy", they wrote. The push is on to convince Tim Hortons to rid itself of the largest size of sugar-laden drinks, including iced cappuccinos, as well as banning deep-fried doughnuts on hospital premises.

All of the Champlain LHIN hospitals have agreed to post calorie and sodium counts, to offer a greater variety of whole grains, vegetables and fruits, to decrease portion sizes of high-calorie beverages, to reduce highly processed snacks and to lower sodium levels, along with ridding themselves of deep-fried foods.

To its credit the Arnprior Regional Health hospital acted as a pioneer in its embrace of healthier foods. And they discovered that cafeteria sales were not harmed by their decision. The public has responded positively to these health-centric initiatives taking place in other hospitals as well which have begun to alter their menu choices.

The region's program states food served to patients' rooms won't be directly affected but would improve thanks to "transformative change" in the kitchen.
The region's program states food served to patients' rooms won't be directly affected but would improve thanks to "transformative change" in the kitchen. (Supplied by Kevin Cook)

Dr. Freedhoff insists that hospitals must make the effort to ensure they promote healthy eating. "Who better than a hospital to say we can't sell this stuff? They did that with tobacco", he observed, hearking back to a time when smoking in hospitals was commonplace, even at a time when it became well known and medically acknowledged that smoking leads to lung cancer and early death.

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