TOPEKA, Kan.—The Kansas Hospital Education & Research Foundation (KHERF), an arm of the Kansas Hospital Association (KHA), has convinced 54 of KHA’s 128 hospital members to examine their food and beverage services with a goal of making their programs healthier. Armed with a $150,000 grant from the Kansas Health Foundation (KHF) it received last year, KHERF launched a grassroots effort to urge hospitals to commit to healthier environments for patients, employees and visitors.
“The KHF is interested in improving the health of Kansas communities as a whole,” says Josh Mosier, project director for Healthy Kansas Hospitals, the name of KHA’s initiative. “With the number of hospitals in the state that are members of the association, we’re able to cast a pretty wide net over the communities that are impacted by the association. The feeling is that hospitals set community norms regarding healthy behaviors and food and beverage practices, and those norms trickle down to the communities themselves.”
Mosier began his efforts last fall at KHA’s annual convention and trade show. “I spoke with hospital CEOs about the initiative and why it is important to them,” he explains. “I told them it allows them to live their mission to not only treat but prevent chronic disease, and that it just made sense for them to do this.”
Mosier cautions that the project is voluntary. “It was very important to us to communicate to members that this is not a mandate,” he says. “This is participatory, and if they want to make changes we’re here to help them.”
One of the ways KHA hopes to help is through a tool kit currently being developed. Mosier says the kit, which he hopes to be ready by Oct. 1, will provide the educational resources to accompany any changes.
“If you don’t educate, the behaviors won’t change,” he explains. “We are interested in patient health and visitor health, but we realize that the repeat customers in the cafeteria or at the vending machines are, most of the time, going to be hospital employees. We need to educate them.”
However, Mosier adds that what happens in hospital cafeterias can have an immediate impact on the surrounding communities.
“A lot of hospitals in smaller communities have residents who come to the hospitals just to eat lunch,” he says. “So by making healthier options available to them, they can lead residents to a healthier diet.”
Along with the tool kit, the KHA also will stage webinars on various nutrition topics four times a year, available to any hospital that has signed onto the initiative.
Even though the KHA is only asking hospitals to review their foodservice programs, Mosier says they are getting reports from hospitals that have already made changes to their programs.
One of those is Hutchinson Regional Medical Center. “During the past year, our dietary staff has completed a top-to-bottom audit of all food and drink options and made significant changes to the services we provide, to ensure that our patients, their families and our employees are consuming healthy and nutritious food,” Hutchinson’s CEO Kevin Miller told the KHA. “As the region’s flagship healthcare provider, we have an inherent obligation to practice what we preach by providing the healthiest dining options.”