Prior to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act heightening the importance of patient satisfaction, hospitals across the nation had begun to reevaluate their food. In 2006, over 450 hospitals chose to participate in the Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge, led by Health Care Without Harm, an international group of health care systems and hospitals that promote the well-being of people and the environment. As the movements for sustainability and increased patient satisfaction grow, health care food services will certainly be seeing some changes.
Taking the first step
The first rule of the Healthy Food Pledge taken by hospitals is “first, do no harm.” This starts with the production of the food. The program focuses on sustainable foods, thereby minimizing any negative environmental damage. There are hospitals that boast their own gardens and greenhouses. This method eliminates the need for transportation, cutting down vehicle fumes and provides the freshest ingredients for patients.
Expanding to the community
The Healthy Food Pledge is committed not only to the environment and its patients, but it also broadens its audience to the community. Hospitals do this by implementing community health programs that not only educate the public on the importance of eating healthy, but also provide them access to these foods. The health care systems aim to provide resources to establish balanced diets for community members that will promote healthy lifestyles.
One of the difficulties of implementing community care programs is accessibility, especially for lower-income families. In recognition of this hurdle, some hospitals have implemented subsidized subscriptions to their program. Other services offered by health care systems include on-site vegetable gardens, fruit and vegetable prescription programs and double value coupon programs to local farmers markets. According to Health Care Finance News, there are even some hospitals with farmers markets that accept food assistance programs as a form of payment.
There are many hospitals that look to improve the lives of not only their patients, but those of the community members as well. The health care systems who have chosen to participate in the Healthy Food Pledge have also committed to the environment. This increases satisfaction of patients, the community and members of the sustainable movement. Though the Pledge was introduced in 2006, the ACA has led many hospitals to reevaluate their current food production. This may lead to changes that will benefit a larger demographic than just patients.