Andrew Way, Chief Executive
Andrew Way, Chief Executive of Alfred Health believes that health promotion is central to the role of a health service, but is often overlooked. Implementing Healthy choices: food and drink guidelines for Victorian public hospitals is one way that Alfred Health is taking steps to actively promote health, with physical activity and smoking cessation also on the agenda.
Andrew spearheaded the implementation of the Healthy choices guidelines across Alfred Health’s three sites – The Alfred, Caulfield Hospital and Sandringham Hospital.
Implementing any major organisational change requires leadership from the top and Andrew didn’t hesitate to champion Healthy Choices at Alfred Health. A committee was formed to manage the implementation of the guidelines and shift the food culture of the hospitals.
Alfred Health’s Healthy Choices project incorporated retail food outlets, vending machines and internal catering across all three sites.
Andrew believes that relationships were vital to the project’s success and that working closely with the onsite food and drink retailers and vending supplier built trust and rapport for a smooth transition.
Why did you decide to implement the Healthy Choices guidelines?
One of the things missing in health is the notion of how you create health. Hospitals are great at treating disease, but not great at preventing it. So with Healthy Choices, we’re implementing a health promotion initiative that will have an impact on our staff and our visitors.
Why have you focussed on food and drink outlets as areas for health promotion?
‘Health promotion’ isn’t traditionally entrenched in primary care, but it’s something that the whole health system needs to embrace. We have more patient contact per year at Alfred Health than almost any institution, and vending machines and food outlets can be the first thing you see when you walk into a hospital.
When we’re trying to make a positive impact on the people we come into contact with, that’s where we have to start.
Has the change in healthy vending had any impact on the business?
The income from vending machines is only a fraction of our overall income, but that also meant we had an opportunity to make changes with little negative impact on our bottom line.
The most important aim of this project is to send a consistent message that promotes healthy eating to our staff and visitors.
What role did senior leadership play in the success of the Healthy Choices project?
Each hospital will be different, but you need a degree of senior clinical buy-in within your hospital. Both the clinical and non clinical leadership of Alfred Health have taken on board a responsibility to act in the interest of public health and health promotion, as much as the clinical space that hospitals are better known for.
What role did the Board play in the success of the project?
To our Board, Healthy Choices certainly wasn’t treated as an initiative that was too far removed from anything else that we do. It falls under our existing commitment to the WHO Health Promoting Hospitals Initiative and what the Board had already committed to at that level.
We didn’t take the full Healthy Choices project plan to the Board for approval, but the concept was discussed and updates were brought up at several of the Board meetings.
What is your vision for Healthy Choices at Alfred Health in the future?
Ultimately I’d like to see this approach to healthier food and drinks being seen as ‘normal’, and not ‘innovative’ or ‘different’. And hopefully the public begins to expect it too, so that they will see food outlets and vending machines and think that it’s ‘normal’ food, not so much that it’s ‘healthy’ or different.
What advice do you have for other hospitals considering implementing Healthy Choices?
It can be difficult and it requires commitment. You certainly can’t flick a switch to make it happen overnight. But if you believe that prevention is an issue for the health system as a whole then you treat it as that, and you make it happen.