Latrobe Regional Hospital (LRH) has made bold efforts to overhaul the food on offer in its cafes and vending machines, which has seen it receive Victorian Government recognition for healthy eating in the Healthy Workplaces Achievement Program.
LRH has been a member of the Program since 2013, and most recently, has been committed to promoting healthy eating, which has led to positive changes to its physical environment, policies, practices and culture.
To implement the suite of healthy changes, LRH did not go it alone but was supported every step of the way by experts in the field including Latrobe Community Health Service (LCHS), the Healthy Eating Advisory Service (HEAS), Alfred Health and the Achievement Program.
The changes to the food environment were centred around the implementation of the Victorian Government’s Healthy Choices Guidelines for retail food outlets, vending machines and catering menus. The Guidelines use a traffic light system to classify food and drink options based on their overall nutritional value: GREEN items are the best choice, AMBER options are to be chosen carefully, and RED items to be limited.
The Guidelines were rolled out across the hospital’s two onsite cafes, all vending machines, and the catering menu. Student dietitians on placement with HEAS assessed the food and drink options on offer using HEAS’ online assessment tool, FoodChecker. The initial assessments revealed that the LRH cafes provided just 22% GREEN items and 45% RED items. With support from Alfred Health, LCHS and HEAS, LRH made concerted efforts to implement the assessment recommendations, which included recipe modifications and product swaps. In under two months, the hard work delivered positive outcomes with GREEN items increasing to 54% and RED items dropping to 13%.
Latrobe Regional Hospital’s chief executive, Peter Craighead, believes the healthy eating program has been a major step forward in supporting the nutrition and wellbeing of staff as well as setting an example for the community.
“As one of the largest employers in the area, with about 2,000 employees, the changes we implemented, such as a new, healthier cafeteria menu were initially a challenge for staff and took a little while to get used to. But I’m pleased to have noticed people making the switch from hot chips to a healthy sandwich or salad,” Mr Craighead said.
Head of the Achievement Program, Tope Adepoyibi, said owing to the hospital’s implementation of the Healthy Choices Guidelines, other important changes were made including policy updates, improved communications and new practices.
“I am impressed by the new healthy practices. Some of the key outcomes have included a healthy eating policy, which has been given the tick of approval by our team; the introduction of posters displaying nutritional information, regular newsletter updates for staff; a new, healthier approach to fundraising; and the active involvement in community initiatives like Nutrition Australia’s Try For 5 campaign,” Ms Adepoyibi said.
Alfred Health has been a great support in strengthening LRH’s internal and external communication approaches and managing the feedback from staff and visitors on the healthy changes to the café and vending machines. One staff member revealed that after 17 years working at the hospital she has, for the first time, made a purchase at the café and is glad to see more healthy options available and promoted.
Population Health Lead at Alfred Health, Angie Passater, highlights the importance of collaborating with stakeholders during all stages of the change process.
“Obtaining and acting on feedback received helps evaluate the changes made, while engaging and involving the community all the way from the executive level through to staff and consumers,” Ms Passater said.
Program manager at HEAS, Margaret Rozman, believes the new approaches to promoting healthy eating will be greatly appreciated and embraced by staff and visitors.
“LRH has implemented the Victorian Government’s Healthy Choices Guidelines in a sustainable way, by bringing the whole organisation and local community along for the journey. And it just goes to show that there's a lot of support available to make healthy changes in large organisations like hospitals,” Ms Rozman said.
The healthy work by LRH does not end here. It will continue to work through the other health areas of the Healthy Workplaces Achievement Program in a bid to create an environment that supports healthy lifestyles.