Deep River hospital offers healthy foods
DEEP RIVER – The Deep River and District Hospital is celebrating its new status as a leader in healthy eating.
Earlier this month, staff representatives and other VIPs gathered in the cafeteria to mark reaching the Silver level in the Healthy Foods in Champlain Hospitals program, the first of the 20 hospitals within the Champlain Local Health Integrated Network (LHIN) to do so.
All hospitals in the region, including the Pembroke Regional Hospital, have voluntarily signed on to this region-wide program to promote and practise healthy eating within their institutions. To this end, deep fryers are being scrapped, calorie and sodium counts posted and reduced where possible, portion sizes decreased, more healthy choices of grains, fruits and vegetables offered on the menu and junk food and drinks eased out of the vending machines.
Dr. Janet Gow, chairwoman of the hospital’s board of directors, said she wanted to thank everyone for helping to achieve this level, making them the first within the LHIN to achieve the accomplishment.
“The commitment and attitude towards healthy eating this award represents benefits everyone,” she said. “It is very good to celebrate this positive achievement.”
Spearheaded by the Champlain Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Network (CCPN), the aim of the healthy foods program is to reduce rates of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, stroke and cancer by creating a place where the healthy choice is the easy choice. The idea is to make hospitals true models of healthy living.
Chantale LeClerc, Champlain LHIN CEO, said when this idea was first introduced, there were a lot of skeptics who wondered how this could work. Still, the hospitals had to consider their role in promoting healthy eating, not just within its walls, but throughout the community.
“We had to consider what are we serving the thousands of people walking through our hospitals every day,” she said, including doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and other staff. “It didn’t make sense if we are working to get people well to be serving junk food to everyone else.”
LeClerc said hospitals have to lead by example, and being role models for healthy eating practices is a great way to give back to the community. This will benefit everyone in the long run, she said, and thanked Deep River and District Hospital for leading the way.
“This is really exemplary and a significant achievement,” LeClerc said.
Jenna Walsh, hospital dietitian, said Deep River signed onto this back initiative in October 2014. She said it took a little time to adjust to this new approach to food, but thanks to a lot of hard work from the dietary staff the hospital was able to make the transition.
“The hardest part was hitting the initial steps,” she said, but by February 2016 the hospital had reached the Bronze level.
Walsh said the hospital has been getting positive feedback from the public, the patients and the staff.
“We’ve set an example in that if we can do it, anyone can.”
Laurie Dojeiji, CCPN program manager, Ottawa Heart Institute, heads up the program, and helps hospitals through the implementation process.
She said a graduated ranking system of Bronze, Silver, Gold is being used as it isn’t realistic to expect overnight change throughout the entire system. This phased implementation will allow the time to make the changes needed.
To date, all of the 20 hospitals are well into this process, having reached Bronze levels.
Dojeiji said switching a culture around isn’t easy. Sometimes, one has to find alternate products, for example, if a brand of canned soup is deemed unhealthy because of the existence of high sodium levels. The main key, though, is to make the environment itself more supportive to healthy eating by getting rid of the bad and replacing it with the good, so it is as easy as possible to make healthy choices.
“They just need some direction,” she said, noting everyone from the LHIN to the CCPN and the hospitals are working towards a common goal, phasing in these changes over time.
“You have to appreciate the value that food has in maintaining overall health,” Dojeiji added. “That knowledge drives this initiative.”
The Deep River and District Hospital celebrated reaching the silver level in the Healthy Foods in Champlain Hospitals program, the first one out of the 20 hospitals taking part. The program promotes healthy eating both for patients, as well as visitors and staff at the hospital. Celebrating the achievement (from left) are Richard Bedard, hospital president and CEO; Jenna Walsh, dietician; Eileen Burke, president of the hospital auxiliary; Bill Proulx, manager of food services; Chantale Leclerc, CEO of the Champlain District LHIN; Laurie Dojeiji, Champlain Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Network program manager Ottawa Heart Institute and William Willard, the hospital's chief financial officer.