U-M Hospitals and Health Centers joins statewide program to improve hospital food nutrition

Volunteer effort seeks to combat obesity in patients, staff and visitors

The University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers has joined nearly 50 Michigan hospitals in a statewide initiative launched recently to help improve the nutrition of food served to patients, staff and visitors.

“UMHHC has joined Healthy Food Hospitals because we believe in quality –not only in terms of patient care, but also in the nutritional value of food served to everyone who walks through our doors,” says Doug Strong, CEO, UMHHC. “This initiative will benefit our patients, visitors and employees, by helping them to make healthier food choices.”

The Healthy Food Hospitals program gives Michigan hospitals tools to systemically improve the nutrition of the food choices available to all people who are treated at, work in, or visit hospitals.

There are four “stars” in the program which address healthy eating and weight management. To earn stars, hospitals must improve the nutritional value of food and beverages, add nutritional content labels to cafeteria and menu items, and commit to buying more Michigan-grown and produced food products. The program was created by the Michigan Health & Hospital Association (MHA) using expert input, guidance and best practices from Michigan dietitians, food service professionals, and other health professionals.

“We all understand the obesity crisis facing Michigan,” says Tony Denton, Executive Director of University Hospitals and Chief Operating Officer, UMHHC. “Our participation in Healthy Food Hospitals will help demonstrate healthier choices, which can improve health and quality of life, and over time, reduce health care costs.”

Childhood obesity is among the nation’s most costly and complex public health threats. Currently, one in three children in the United States is overweight or obese. Michigan is the 10th most overweight state in the country, with 29.4 percent of adults and 12.4 percent of children ages 10 to 17 obese. According to the Healthy Kids, Healthy Michigan initiative, Michigan’s annual medical costs associated with obesity total more than $3 billion.

The Healthy Food Hospitals program focuses on improving hospital menus for children and adults. The first two stars are accomplished when hospitals adopt pediatric patient default menus for children ages 2 to 18 that meet American Heart Association guidelines, serve low fat or skim milk without recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), serve only 100% juice, and use Bisphenol A free containers and/or reusable cups. The third star is achieved when hospitals label food nutritional content in their cafeterias. Hospitals complete the fourth star by committing to source at least 20 percent Michigan-grown, produced and processed foods.

Michigan hospitals and residents can find more information about the Healthy Food Hospitals initiative at www.healthyfoodhospitals.org.

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