Monday, February 22, 2010

What's in your hospital?

I'm old enough to remember when the hospital where I did my dietetic internship had cigarette machines. They were 'hidden', but a lot of staff knew where they were and used them. I still remember my shock at first seeing them and then seeing who used them! That was the mid-70's. I seriously doubt that any hospital or health care facility (at least in the US) has cigarette machines on the premises anymore.

So why do they still have vending machines that sell junk food? I have been in the ER of my own local major medical center several times over the past years, always viewing the food options available from vending machines with disinterest if not disdain. Disclosure - it has been 2 years since my last ER visit. I can hope there has been a change since then. However, an article published yesterday in the Columbia (MO) Tribune reports that other "health care" institutions also have clearly not made the connection between food and health, i.e. food and disease.

Health care in this country is still "disease care" and in fact is itself an "industry". In Michigan, our governor tries to put a positive spin on our miserable economy by pointing out that we do have one growth industry in the state, which is "health care". I about choked when I heard that!!! Question - Do we need to all get sick (and stay sick) to keep our economy growing, in order to provide jobs for our children to be able to stay and work in the State of Michigan? I certainly will not be part of that formula!

Our First Lady, Michelle Obama, is trying to change the big picture of the nutrition environment for families with children, first with her organic White House garden last year and now with her new "Let's Move!" campaign in order to break as quickly as possible this accelerating march toward childhood obesity, early onset chronic diseases with their exorbitant disease treatment costs, shortened life expectancy, decreased quality of life, and downright misery (there is an amputation due to type II diabetes - which is totally preventable! - every 30 seconds in this country).

Food is the nexus (connection, linkage) between health and disease. In any and every way possible, each of us (as health care professional and/or as citizens) needs to do our part to change this giant tapestry, this entangled web, of the food and nutrition environment from junk food to good food and then reach out to advocate to change the larger food and nutrition environment in order to focus our efforts on promoting health, i.e., prevention of disease not treatment of disease.

Start by looking in your local food shopping store for food to purchase that is grown locally and seasonally (yes, even during the cold, snowy months in Michigan). If it is not there, find the store manager and ask to have it available. Then keep asking each time you go to the store. Did you realize that spending just $10 per week on locally grown food keeps $37 million circulating in Michigan's economy instead of going out of state to who knows where? (This same concept can be applied to wherever my readers reside.)

Download and print out the Good Food Checklist for Dietitians on the left side of my blog (for some reason, the links to other two checklists are currently not available - I'll work on that later). I'll bet you'll be surprised and pleased to realize how much you are already doing, but this list will help you identify your best "next step" on the path to including more good food into your nutrition environment.

The next time you're in your medical center, cancer clinic, or cardiac cath lab (really, I hope you never need to go to any of those places!), look around at the easy food options and if what you see is junk food, please make a formal request for healthy options to be made available and affordable, too. (apples should cost far less than candy bars!). Ask to speak to a manager, and then ask for the name and address of the person who makes the decision about what is available. Follow up with a letter to that person, asking for a reply.

Enough spouting off from me. I'll end with two inspirational short quotes as "food for thought", and I hope as "food for action", too. :-)

“Eating is an agricultural act.”
~~ Wendell Berry, Farmer - Poet - Activist

“Don’t dig your grave with
your own knife and fork”
~~ English Proverb

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD


lookinout said...

Excellent reminders about the cafeterias and making requests. Thanks. Gillian

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that many physical activities have been eliminated or curtailed due to fear/risk of harm. While this sounds silly to most of us raised to enjoy the outdoors, our public schools seem particularly fearful and as a result, restrictive. How will awareness of childhood obesity change this perspective and allow more play time/physical activity in schools where children spend over eight hours a day?Laura