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As health systems prepare for the coming changes of the Accountable Care Act, many are looking to educate their communities about nutrition issues that can have a long term impact on hospital admission and re-admission rates and overall health.
For the past nine years, there has been a Health & Wellness Fair held at the 130-bed Meadows Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Dallas, PA, which is managed by Cura Hospitality. When clinical dietitian Rebecca Sims, RD, LDN, organized the first fair, she corralled 10 vendors to come and set up their tables. This past April, there were 33 and approximately 100 attendees from the community.
“Our objective is to provide an opportunity for the community to learn about Cura Hospitality and The Meadows and to take advantage of the free services offered at the Fair,” Sims explains. Services include screening or monitoring of hearing, vision, blood pressure, blood sugar and so forth.
The Center’s own Therapy Department conducts free balance testing, gait screening and more while Sims' table is the main nutrition location where attendees know they can get their Body Mass Index measured and get samples of nutritious but low-calorie snack packs from Nabisco, Crystal Light On-the-Go water-flavoring packets from Kraft and—new this year—NuGo high protein nutrition bars from NuGo Nutrition, along with all the corresponding literature from the manufacturers.
“Companies want to get their names out there,” Sims asserts. “Over the years, we’ve learned the best time to hold the Fair is during the week from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., so we’ll not only attract retirees but also the moms and kids. ‘New’ companies keep calling me, so we’re growing. In order to get bigger, we’ll have to move outside under tents—and schedule a rain date,” she laughs.
Thus far, The Meadow’s dietary department has not gone out into the community to provide nutrition seminars, but “Tip of the Week” nutrition-based posters displayed in the cafeteria are seen by a wide audience that includes staff members, volunteers and residents' families, “so word does get out,” Sims says. A typical “Tip” might focus on Better Choices When Eating Out (Share an entrée; choose baked versus fried potatoes, etc.).
“In the future, your health insurance—that is, the premium you pay—may be more tied to your health risk, such as being a smoker or being overweight,” says Julie Jones, MS, RD, LD, director of nutrition services at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. Therefore, Jones and her colleagues at Wexner, including nutrition events program director Chef Jim Warner, aim to give the community as well as the 50,000 Ohio State University staff and their family members who are covered by the facility’s insurance, the resources to live a healthy life.
The overall focus is on fitness, stress and relaxation, as well as nutrition, Jones says. Under the umbrella Culture of Health and Wellness program, Jones aims to get in on the ground floor, so to speak.
“We’re trying to connect ‘food’ and ‘nutrition’ for the patients, customers, clients. We’re showing them real food, how to buy it, how to cook it (demos and recipes provided), and translate it to how the body uses it. So, here at the Medical Center [and out in the community] we create the culture and provide the resources for people to be successful.”
Forging partnerships: Providing specific nutrition information and diet regimens tailored to the needs of discharged patients (including cancer, heart, diabetes, etc.) is a given, but Ohio State Wexner actively seeks to create partnerships in the community that will help them serve the underserved, a role that Warner (a 1979 CIA-Hyde Park grad) is particularly adept at. In fact, this year up to 80 programs—some in-house, some out in the community—will be presented, thanks in part to various partnerships.
“We try to partner with everyone, including the Columbus Public Health Department for a Health Fair,” Warner says.
Another partnership is with the Somali community in Columbus, reportedly the third largest in the country. “Since they’re a nomadic people, fruits and vegetables were not part of their traditional diet," Warner explains.
"We meet them where they are, at their community center and so forth, so that they’re comfortable in the surroundings. We’re teaching them, sometimes with an interpreter, about food and nutrition in a context they can understand. Although members of the first generation often stick to the old-style cooking, we talk to them about the need for fruits and vegetables. We’re also trying to reach out to the youth to teach easy ways to prepare food with reduced fat, reduced sugar and so forth.”