change what we drink: change the future

In early 2012, Children's Colorado employees gathered in a conference room to figure out how to make the hospital cafeteria healthier. There was talk of offering more nutritional information, eliminating hydrogenated oils and creating a healthy station.

And then, of course, there was talk of reducing sugar-sweetened beverages.

This is the Healthy Hospital Committee, a group bringing health and wellness to more employees, patients, visitors and the community at large.

These conversations are taking place all over the country as communities face alarming rates of increasing childhood obesity. These children may need the hospital now for largely preventable conditions; if they don't change, they'll need it in the future, too.

The need for change is urgent.

Children's Colorado is currently one of 25 pediatric hospitals nationwide leading the effort to make hospitals – pediatric and adult – the epicenters of health and wellness.

The hospital's efforts span areas as diverse as physical activity, sustainability and spiritual and emotional wellness. The aim is two-prong: arm every person who walks through the doors with tools to achieve good health, and encourage employees to become as healthy as possible so they can lead by example.

And those sugar-sweetened beverages: they can account for a large portion of calories consumed and greatly contribute to the obesity epidemic. The Healthy Hospital Committee has successfully advocated for the elimination of advertising for sugar-sweetened beverages in its cafeteria, which has showed promising results.

It may seem small, but changing what kids drink really is a huge step forward in the hope for a healthier future.

Healthy People 2020

The Children's Health Advocacy Institute (CHAI) is part of the country's Healthy People 2020 initiative, providing science-based, 10-year national objectives to improve the health of all Americans. With a focus on children, CHAI uses the Healthy People benchmarks to encourage collaborations across communities and sectors; empower children and adolescents to make informed health decisions; and measure the impact of prevention activities.

As part of the Healthy Hospital initiative, Children's Colorado has begun efforts to increase stair usage at the hospital.

"Taking the stairs results in almost 10 times the metabolic demand as riding the elevator," said clinical exercise physiologist Michael S. Witten, M.S., CSCS, Director of the Wellness Center. "People who regularly climb stairs during the work day have shown an increase in aerobic capacity, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and have lost weight and inches."

Wins for Healthy Hospital at Children's Colorado in 2012:

Since the fourth quarter of 2011, sales of sugar-sweetened beverages have decreased each quarter while other beverages, including Dasani and Vitamin Water, have increased each quarter.
The salad bar has recorded significant change – and significant sales increases – by offering more ingredients and more healthy options. Of all the major meal stations (Carving Block, grill, healthy station and salad bar), the salad bar has garnered 48 percent of total sales, more than any other station.
No items in the cafeteria have transfats or hydrogenated oil.