Here’s to a Healthier Hospital

healthy-hospital-fullYou won’t find deep-fat French fries, bacon cheeseburgers, or sugar-sweetened sodas in the cafeteria at Packard Children’s. Instead, hungry visitors and employees can choose whole-grain pasta, frozen yogurt, and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.

The change is part of a wide-scale initiative to make Packard Children’s the healthiest children’s hospital in the country. The plan involves introducing healthy practices throughout the hospital, from encouraging the use of stairs to revamping the cafeteria menu.

“As a children’s hospital, we have the responsibility to model the healthiest environment possible for our patients, their families, and the community,” says Karen Kemby, administrative director of strategy and business development. “We take that responsibility seriously, and we are leading the way in making children’s hospitals healthier places.”

Packard Children’s was one of the first children’s hospitals in the country to eliminate sugar-sweetened drinks from its menu. (Each 12-ounce serving of a carbonated, sweetened soft drink contains the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar.) Kemby adds that Packard Children’s is one of only ten children’s hospital systems among 155 hospitals signing on with the nonpartisan, nonprofit Partnership for a Healthier America, which is working with the private sector and Honorary Chair First Lady Michelle Obama to end the epidemic of childhood obesity in U.S.

“We do feel a responsibility to set a good example,” says Tom Robinson, MD, MPH, director of the Center for Healthy Weight.

The cafeteria now features more healthful options like whole-grain breads and pasta, low-fat dairy and meat products, vegetarian options, and seasonal fruits and vegetables. All offerings are assessed in terms of fat, sugar, and salt content as well as portion size.

“We tend to eat more than we need, especially at stressful times,” says Stephen Roth, MD, MPH, chief of pediatric cardiology and medical director of the Children’s Heart Center. “It’s hard for families to be in the hospital when their children are ill, and we should do whatever we can to make our environment healthier for them.”

But healthy does not mean boring. Packard Children’s cafeteria rates an average of four out of five stars on Yelp, with kudos for its grilled cheese, turkey burgers, and egg dishes.

Packard Children’s leadership efforts to promote a healthy environment permeate the entire hospital and are a driving force behind the expansion design. From strategies to promote stair use to inviting pathways throughout the gardens and easy-to-access bike racks, the design will encourage physical activity and positive lifestyle choices.

And lots of good eating.


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