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Hospitals make strides to improve hospital care

Challenging hospitals to take charge of the changing healthcare systems in its communities, the Healthier Hospitals Initiative has added six Massachusetts hospitals to its initiative in the past month, expanding upon its goal to improve patient care.

The program, which encompasses 800 hospitals nationwide, began two years ago. Forty-three institutions in Massachusetts are currently taking part in the initiative, including Massachusetts General Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital–Plymouth, Boston Medical Center and Lawrence General Hospital. Nine of these 43 are located in Boston.

“The Healthier Hospitals Initiative is a national campaign to lead change in the health care sector,” the initiative’s brochure said. “Twelve influential U.S. health systems have joined … to provide a free way for hospitals to incorporate environmentally friendly practices into daily operations.”

The Healthier Hospitals Initiative asks hospitals to commit to any number of challenges in their six focus areas: healthier food, leaner energy, less waste, safer chemicals, smarter purchasing and engaged leadership.

“As a community leader providing health care services, we felt it was our obligation to be part of the solution to what is becoming a national epidemic,” said Vanessa Kortze, manager of marketing and communications at LGH. “[We] strive to ensure healthy outcomes every day for our patients and our community, so it’s a natural fit for us to promote a healthier environment by providing healthier options.”

Lawrence General joined the initiative in late February, hoping to improve patient care by participating in two of the initiative’s healthier food challenges, the Sugar Sweet Beverage Initiative, which replaces high sugar drinks with healthier options such as water and seltzers, and the Balanced Menu Challenge, which eliminates high calorie menu options with healthier choices, Kortze said.

“These healthier options are now more accessible to our patients through the room service and menu choices and in our cafeterias so that whether you are a patient, visitor or staff member, you can make better choices,” she said.

Kortze said LGH’s participating in the initiative has allowed them to work with hospitals nationwide to promote nutritional awareness and successfully integrate new programs within their institution.

“It will enable us to practice what we preach every day,” she said. “Our patients rely on us to be a community health resource, as do our community and staff members. Participating in the Healthier Hospitals Initiative will allow us to leverage standards of best practices and guidelines that have been successful in other hospitals so that we can achieve success in promoting healthier options.”

Several residents said healthy foods expedite the healing process, so the initiative to include healthier food in hospitals is imperative to a hospital’s success.

Max Heller, 22, of Allston, said hospitals should be creating an environment that fosters healing, and food is an important part of that mission.

“If anybody needs to be serving healthy foods, it’s hospitals,” he said. “They have the responsibility to serve people healthier foods that help with healing.”

Tasheem Jones, 19, of Mattapan, said patients are at their most vulnerable when in a hospital, and hospitals should take care of them to the best of their ability.

“You would expect a hospital to have healthy food for patients,” he said. “For patients who are sick or ill, the hospital is obliged to provide patients with whole foods.”

Heather Tifrere, 54, of Dorchester, said food is only one aspect of the healing process, but it is a valuable factor.

“It’s very important to have healthy foods available,” she said. “Food is a very big part of the healing process. Food, prayer and lots of faith.”

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