April 23, 2014

The California Healthy Food in Health Care (HFHC) program, a program of Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), is coordinated by SF Bay Area PSR, and contributes to the national sustainability agenda for the health care sector embodied within the Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI). This project is one of many resulting from a longstanding relationship between SF Bay Area PSR and Health Care Without Harm that has developed and grown stronger over the past 15 years. Our organizations have worked side by side on a range of other projects such as eliminating mercury and a variety of toxic chemicals from the hospital setting, greening Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUS), and reducing the ecological footprint of hospital operations as a key component of addressing global warming.  It is a relationship that fosters a united front within the health care sector to address some of the most pressing environmental health issues of our time.

The health care sector represents close to 18% of the GDP in the United States and wields a significant amount of influence in both the marketplace and the public policy arena.  SF Bay Area PSR and Health Care Without Harm, working together, combine the influence of the clinical voice and the purchasing power of health care systems to make change. The California Healthy Food in Health Care program is exemplary in this regard. We now have over 125 hospitals in California, many of which participate in our Hospital Leadership Teams in San Diego, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area, each of which are actively engaged in buying, serving and educating their staff and patients about sustainably grown, healthier foods. Clinicians in our network across the state are stepping up to participate in these hospital-based efforts, helping to organize Grand Rounds in their hospitals about the environmental and public health impacts of our food system, and supporting public policy efforts to improve the health of our food system. Health professionals are leading the charge on the issues of non-therapeutic antibiotics use in animal agriculture, GMO labeling, sugar-sweetened beverages, and pesticide use.

The work in California also contributes to the success and momentum of the national Healthy Food in Health Care program, and provides innovative model strategies for other regions to adopt and replicate. Our Leadership Team model of organizing food service staff has been implemented in New England, the mid-Atlantic, Michigan and Oregon. The nationally recognized Balanced Menus program, designed to promote sustainable meat procurement in the health care sector, was developed by the Bay Area Leadership Team. The UCSF Academic Senate Committee resolution, calling for an end to the procurement of meat produced with non-therapeutic antibiotics within the University of California system, is going on the road this year to be promoted as a model for other academic medical centers to adopt.

SF Bay Area PSR is proud of our Healthy Food in Health Care program and our collaboration with Health Care Without Harm. We will be contributing quarterly columns to the eNews from now on to share our work and successes. In the meantime, please check out SF Bay Area PSR’s website and the Health Care Without Harm’s website for more information about the California and national program work. And please feel free to contact Lucia Sayre, our Co-Executive Director at luciasayre@sbcglobal.net if you have any questions or would like to get involved in Healthy Food in Health Care.

Read about one hospital’s switch to socially responsible food purchasing in the Washington Hospital “Currents” newsletter here; and about U-T San Diego’s recent feature on the Healthier Hospitals Initative here.