Healthy choices: policy directive for Victorian public health services overview

Health services
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The Policy directive strengthens Victorian public health services as places that support the health and wellbeing of their staff and visitors.

It requires services to ensure that healthier food and drinks are sold, provided and promoted across all of their sites and facilities.

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[Text displayed on screen] Healthy choices – Policy directive for Victorian public health services. 

In April 2021, the Victorian government announced the Healthy Choices Policy Directive for Victorian Public Health Services.  

This policy directive ensures that Victorian public health services sell, provide and promote healthier food and drinks in their facilities.  

I’m Bridget Dietitian from the Healthy Eating Advisory Service, and I’m going to walk you through the policy Directive and what it means for your health service. These changes will apply to any items for purchase via in house retail food outlets, all vending machines, staff and visitor catering, as well as items purchased by staff via patient or resident menus. Health services are encouraged to also implement the policy in their commercial retail outlets. By September 30, 2022, your service will no longer be able to sell, provide, or promote high sugar red category drinks.  

It must provide at least 50% green drinks and no more than 50% amber drinks, with no more than 20% of these being artificially sweetened. By September 30, 2023, your service will be required to meet the Healthy Choices Guidelines for food, meeting the targets of at least 50% green food and no more than 20% red food independent of drinks and no red food is to be provided through catering.  

Health services will be required to demonstrate that they meet these requirements to the Department of Health via specified reporting methods and time frames.  

Further information about this will be provided to health services by the Department.  

By making these changes, your service will be joining the significant number of health services already doing great work in this space, each of whom have demonstrated positive responses from staff and visitors and pleasing results to their bottom line. You play an important role in this implementation and will be a vital part of engaging and assisting both leadership and food service staff to understand and adopt these changes.  

The Healthy Eating Advisory Service are the experts in Healthy Choices implementation and are here to help you and your organization. We offer free, tailored support to help you engage management and food service staff and assess your menu to meet the requirements of the Policy Directive.  

Together, we have an opportunity to positively influence. Food and drinks provided to your staff and visitors to increase the number of healthier options available and to support the health and wellbeing of all who access your health service. 

[Text displayed on screen] Contact the Healthy Eating Advisory Service, www.heas.health.vic.gov.au, 1300 22 52 88.  

The food and drink targets

DrinksFood
Vending and in-house retail* food outlets:

No RED drinks to be available or promoted/advertised. At least 50% GREEN drinks, and no more than 20% drinks containing artificial or intense sweeteners (classified AMBER) are available.
Vending and in-house retail* food outlets:

At least 50% GREEN foods and no more than 20% RED foods are available. No RED foods to be promoted or advertised.

Combination food and drink vending machines:

At least 50% GREEN items (combination of foods and drinks)
no more than 20% AMBER artificially sweetened drinks and
no more than 20% RED foods are available (no RED drinks allowed).
no RED foods to be promoted/advertised.
Catering:

No RED drinks are provided (with majority of options to be GREEN).
Catering:

No RED food is provided (with majority of options to be GREEN).

Why has it been developed?

The Policy directive is about increasing opportunity and choice for staff and visitors in public health services to access healthy food and drink options. In addition, this work will help to meet the Victorian Cancer Plan target of “at least 80 per cent of health services” retail outlets and vending machines meeting Healthy Choices by 2024.

Where does the Policy apply?

The Policy directive applies to all sites and facilities across public health services including, but not limited to:

  • hospitals
  • public sector residential aged care services (PSRACS)
  • integrated community health services

The Policy directive applies to the following food services within public health services:

  • in-house managed retail food outlets, including items purchased by staff and visitors from patient/resident menus
  • all vending machines (managed in-house and privately)
  • all catering* provided to visitors and staff

Victorian public health services are encouraged to implement the Healthy Choices: policy guidelines for hospitals and health services and the Policy directive across all of their retail food outlets – both in-house and commercially managed. This includes retail outlets that have food supplied from an inpatient/resident food service, managed by an external contractor.

* Catering applies to staff procuring food and drinks with health service (government funds) for meetings, functions, and events. This includes occasions such as workshops, conferences, community events, launches, celebrations and ceremonies, as well as client or community education, information, or training programs.

It also includes food/drinks provided (free) on the ward or in staff rooms/waiting rooms for staff/visitors (e.g. tea/coffee, water, fruit, biscuits, lollies). Whilst not included in the Policy directive, health services are encouraged to promote and communicate their healthy catering policy to any external groups using their facilities, for example community support groups.

FoodChecker

The FoodChecker Policy directive assessment function allows you to assess your internally managed retail food outlets, vending machines and catering against the Policy directive targets.

The assessment will state if you meet each of the following targets individually:

DrinksFood
Drinks % targetsFood % targets
No RED drinks promotionNo RED food promotion

Reporting to the Department of Health

At reporting times health services have access to Progress Tracker, the online reporting tool where health services report their progress towards the Policy directive.

Only FoodChecker assessments you choose to submit via this online portal are visible to the Department of Health.

Working with food service staff

We have developed a tailored resource for food service staff designed to provide:

  • an overview of the Policy directive
  • information specific to the needs of working in the kitchen, including tips for meeting the Policy directive

Designed to be printed off and displayed in the kitchen or shared digitally.

Communicating changes and milestones to stakeholders

Communicating your organisation’s progress and milestones to stakeholders is an important part of the Policy directive implementation process.

We have developed a communications kit containing a collection of topics about the Policy directive including implementation progress and key milestones which you can include in newsletters, on your intranet and via social media.

We are here to support you in assessing your food and drinks against the Policy directive targets. You can contact our dedicated Nutrition Policy Advisors for information and advice specific to your health service’s needs.

Brigitte Annois
Nutrition Policy Advisor, APD
Ph: 8341 5808
E: bannois@nutritionaustralia.org.au

Helpful resources

For more information please phone 1300 22 52 88 or email heas@nutritionaustralia.org.au

Except where otherwise indicated, the images in this document show models and illustrative settings only, and do not necessarily depict actual services, facilities or recipients of services. This document may contain images of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In this document, ‘Aboriginal’ refers to both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. ‘Indigenous’ or ‘Koori/Koorie’ is retained when part of the title of a report, program or quotation. Copyright © State of Victoria 2016

Written and reviewed by dietitians and nutritionists at Nutrition Australia, with support from the Victorian Government.

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