Endorsement of HHI Healthier Food Letter to Food Service Vendors and Distributors

University Hospitals recently endorsed a letter to the national food services community with the following requests in an effort to drive forward industry outcomes for the HHI Healthier Food Challenge:

  1. Food vendors incorporate the definitions of “local,” “sustainable” and “healthy beverages” as outlined in the HHI Healthier Food Challenge benchmarks and attach these definitions to products meeting these criteria to ensure health systems can easily identify and choose healthier products online and in catalogues.
  2. Vendors create a standardized comprehensive tracking mechanism so that participating hospitals can quantify their local, sustainable and healthy beverage purchases over time.
  3. Working together, vendors increase the availability of local and sustainable products “on contract,” while hospitals assist by aggregating the demand for these products with other health care facilities in their regions to efficiently demonstrate demand.

Clinical Advocacy

Aparna Bole

Aparna Bole, MD, Sustainability Manager, University Hospitals

As an academic health system with a practicing physician leading our sustainability efforts, UH has a unique platform to communicate the links between sustainability and wellness, and to advance in the clinical and academic medical community the concept of sustainability as a public health advocacy opportunity. Our Sustainability Manager, Aparna Bole, MD, is also an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and continues to be active in patient care at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital and pediatric resident and medical student education. She has coordinated a presentation of the Physicians for Social Responsibility Environmental Health Toolkit to pediatric trainees, and mentored pediatric residents who are undertaking a pilot study of a proposed post-consumer composting program on our main campus. She also mentors pediatric residents who manage the Healthy Harvest program, the aforementioned food access and nutrition education program for our general pediatric clinic at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. In addition, our Office of Sustainability provides content for our Department of Pediatrics’ new resident advocacy rotation: we developed a presentation on sustainability as a pediatric public health issue, and developed a shopping exercise for residents that is an experiential case study of a family relying on food assistance programs. This case study focuses on opportunities to leverage food assistance programs and local resources to maximize healthy and sustainable food shopping opportunities for our most vulnerable patients and families.

Dr. Bole is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and a member of the AAP’s Council on Environmental Health (COEH). In this capacity, Dr. Bole contributes to the AAP’s efforts to advocate for policies that improve children’s health, especially those related to environmental health.

UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital has a long tradition of outstanding child advocacy efforts. We see many opportunities to continue to increase awareness of sustainability as a public health advocacy issue, with a special focus on children’s health. For example, through our hospital’s work with the Children’s Hospital Association, we know that many of our peers are concerned about healthy food offerings to patients and visitors, and we believe that as we document our work on improving our sustainable food procurement practices, designed with our patient-centered mission in mind, these can be shared productively with our peers to help advance similar food procurement efforts around the country. To this end, we have shared UH’s approach to integrating HHI Healthier Food and wellness goals in our food procurement and menu-planning efforts in a Children’s Hospital Association wellness webinar.

These advocacy efforts are bearing early fruit with signs of increased awareness of sustainability in the academic pediatric community. In 2013, we both hosted and presented at regional peer institutions pediatric and OB/Gyn Grand Rounds on the topic of sustainability as a public health advocacy issue. Finally, UH is represented on the board of Health Care Without Harm.

15 Environmental Excellence awards

UH received 15 Environmental Excellence awards from Practice Greenhealth, including the prestigious System for Change award, for our systemwide achievements in sustainability in 2013.