In the future, every hospital admission and treatment program for a chronic disease will include comprehensive nutritional counseling and education and food preparation and practice in an on-site kitchen. Hospital cafeteria services will provide choice (i.e. they will serve sufficient healthy foods to provide for a healthy square meal) and send a very clear message about what high quality food means through the food they provide. Cafeteria services will not reinforce the messages of the processed food industry at the expense of patient health; cafeteria services will instead be just one more aspect of hospital nutrition education.
We’re not there yet.
The vast majority of hospitals still appeal to “consumer preference” in organizing and managing their food and nutrition services.
Since “consumer preference”, as shaped by processed food marketing, has led to the current epidemic of chronic disease, and since such preference apparently leads to the vast majority of hospital admissions, it should be obvious that while serving low-quality, processed foods and calling them healthy (as most hospitals do) serves to encourage revenue growth, it is at odds with the stated mission of hospitals in promoting the health of the community.
Hospitals can still take a page from hospitals that are doing things right. This hospital in Melbourne, Australia is moving in just that direction, by promoting healthy choices through a simple labeling system on sugary drinks. It’s one small step, but it’s an important one in moving toward the hospitals of the future.
Thanks to Megan Pfeffer for the article.