Healthy Hospitals and Clinics Forum Encourages Change

Madison, Wisconsin - Wisconsin's health report is not bumper-sticker worthy.


That's the clear message Karen Timberlake, director of the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, used to kick off the inaugural Healthy Hospitals and Clinics Forum in Madison.


"We are in the bottom half of the nation for obesity. It's the lowest ranking in the last 25 years since this data started being collected," said Timberlake. "Almost 30 percent of adults in Wisconsin are obese. That is not exactly something you want to put on a bumper sticker."


More than 120 hospitals' representatives from all across the state, urban and rural, gathered to discuss the role of hospitals and clinics in the state to model healthy food and beverage choices.


According to the latest American Health Rankings from the United Health Foundation's 2014 annual report, Wisconsin is ranked 23rd in overall health and 29th in obesity rates in the United States.


Timberlake says The Centers for Disease Control wants a 15 percent obesity rate in the country and she framed the importance of this conference in the bigger picture.


Among the offerings at the Healthy Hospitals and Clinics Forum was a fruit and yogurt parfait.

"We are almost double the national standard and we are headed in the wrong direction. Many of these hospitals and clinics are the biggest employers in their communities," said Timberlake. "This is an opportunity to be leaders. We need to commit to a vision of healthier workplaces, healthier people, and healthier communities," said Timberlake.


"Hopefully we can work to make some positive bumper stickers in the future," said Nan Peterson, event co-organizer and director of child health advocacy at American Family Children's Hospital.


UW Health, among with a state-wide group of organizations, hosted this event to discuss best practices and real-world examples to promote a culture of change in Wisconsin hospitals through panels, speakers and small discussions.


Peterson shared the experience of American Family Children's Hospital removing sugar-sweetened beverages and she referenced a very powerful display case used to market the messages. She spoke in a breakout session about sharing resources to begin change.


"We have a display of 32 pounds of sugar outside our children's hospital gift shop, which is what you would put into your body if you drank a soda every day. It was very impactful for our patients and families," said Peterson.


Last October UW Health removed sugar-sweetened beverages and replaced them with healthier options. Two years ago, American Family Children's Hospital removed sugar-sweetened beverages. UW Health was the first Madison-area hospital to make the change. Hudson Hospital and Baldwin Area Medical Center have also made the switch.


Megan Waltz, director of UW Health nutrition and culinary services, shared stories during her panel discussion.


"You are going to get push-back when you make these changes, but you need to keep with it and have leadership support," said Waltz.


Amy Mihm, a UW Health registered dietitian, who is very involved in the beverage policy, described UW Heath's journey to removing sugar-sweetened beverages.


"We continue to address feedback, patient and staff education, and have ongoing training to continue to move forward with these changes. We want to keep sending the message the healthy choice is the easy choice," said Mihm.


"We hope this is just the beginning. After this discussion we are going to invite 12 to 15 hospitals in the state to participate in our 'Community of Practice' program," said Emily Reynolds, policy coordinator at the Wisconsin Comprehensive Cancer Control Program. "We hope to offer resources, support and guidance to other hospitals and we encourage them to start making changes in the next year."


The Wisconsin Comprehensive Cancer Control Program, The Childhood Obesity Prevention Collaborative, the Public Health Law Center, the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative, the Wisconsin Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection, the Wisconsin Hospital Association, the Wisconsin Medical Society, and the Wisconsin Obesity Prevention Network were all involved in the planning of this forum.

Date Published: 06/09/2015

News RSS Feed