East Wimmera Health Service
In late 2018, East Wimmera Health Service (EWHS) decided to implement the Healthy Choices guidelines (HCG) in its catering and staff menus.
The decision was made after meeting with the Healthy Eating Advisory Service’s (HEAS) hospital coordinator in mid-2018, and builds on EWHS’s work to reduce sugar sweetened beverages, as part of a region-wide effort.
And just six months later, EWHS has now met the Healthy Choices guidelines at all five sites!
Led by the Health Promotion Officer, Stacey Keller, the first step was to form a working group that included a representative from the executive team, dietitians, and the food service manager.
The working group’s first goal was to provide healthier foods and drinks in EWHS’s vending machine. However the machine supplier was unwilling to stock healthier foods and drinks, so the working group decided to remove the machine, rather than continue supplying the typical contents of chocolates, chips and sugary drinks.
What did they do?
The group’s priority was to develop an organisation-wide Healthy Eating and Catering Policy that embedded the Healthy Choices guidelines into food provision across the five health service sites. They worked with the HEAS to get guidance on what should be included in a healthy eating policy, and to hear about the work of other hospitals. With this support the health promotion officer, dietitians and the food service manager developed their policy and presented it to the executive team to be endorsed.
While developing the policy, the group also assessed the staff menu and catering menu in FoodChecker to determine the percentage of GREEN, AMBER and RED items on each menu, and identify areas for improvement.
From here, the working group spoke with the HEAS hospital coordinator to plan for change, based on feedback in the FoodChecker assessment reports, and tailored recommendations from HEAS. The menus were easily and quickly updated because the Food Service Manager was also involved throughout the process, and provided input on what was realistically able to be implemented.
The main changes included:
- replacing processed meats in sandwiches with lean meats like chicken breast
- swapping butter for polyunsaturated spreads
- sourcing healthier ready-made meals and snacks at a local supermarket
- replacing full fat spreads like mayonnaise with lower fat options
- adding more fruit to the menu
- reducing salt by replacing it with fresh herbs and spices
- introducing new GREEN and AMBER catering options, like soups.
The staff and catering menus were reassessed on FoodChecker, which revealed the amount of GREEN items on the staff menu had increased from 45% to 55%, and RED items had decreased from 29% to 20% in under two months!
The most significant change was in the catering menu, with GREEN items increasing from 33% to 53%, and RED items decreasing from 37% to 0%!
The importance of engaging the whole organisation
EWHS’s success in only four months demonstrates how important a whole-of-organisation approach is to successfully implementing the Healthy Choices guidelines.
The Health Promotion Officer worked with the HEAS Coordinator to engage key stakeholders, develop an action plan and the healthy eating policy, assess menus in FoodChecker and educate staff on the guidelines, which resulted in greater acceptance organisation wide.
Clear leadership support
Having strong involvement from the food service team from the start was pivotal in helping make the changes to meet the HCG. They took on the challenge willingly and were involved in all the decision making.
Additionally, involving the CEO and executive team ensured strong leadership and commitment to the process at the highest levels. Having a representative from the executive team on the working group made it easy for the committee to get approval for, and implement, any changes needed to roll out the Healthy Choices guidelines.
CEO, Trevor Adem, used the staff newsletter to explain what the Healthy Choices guidelines are, and when the implementation would occur. He also gave staff an opportunity to provide feedback and make suggestions on the changes, to ensure everyone was being heard throughout the process.
“As a health provider, it is important that we lead by example to our communities. By making positive changes we are showing leadership, innovation and an investment in the health and wellbeing of our staff and the broader community.”
- Trevor Adem, CEO, East Wimmera Health Service
Working with the Healthy Eating Advisory Service
Finally, Stacey credits working with HEAS Hospitals Coordinator, Emily, as a key success factor, as she was able to support the working group every step of the way.
In particular, Emily helped the team:
- communicate the purpose of the changes organisation wide
- review EWHS’s new healthy eating policy
- assess the menus in FoodChecker and recommend changes tailored to the organisation’s capacity and goals.