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Alums Help Hospitals Get Healthier With Food Options

minute read

Colorado School of Public Health Community and Behavioral Health alumni Sharon Crocco, MPH ‘12 and Katie O’Connor, MPH ‘13 saw a lack of healthy food options at hospitals in Colorado, so they are working to do something about it.   

The Colorado Healthy Hospital Compact – the nation’s only statewide initiative to address this problem – has twenty-five hospitals, roughly a quarter of the state’s 100 or so facilities, promoting healthier food and drinks. 

O’Connor, who manages health promotion at Children’s Hospital, said food and drink options had to evolve for the sake of patients. 

“Kids who start at a young age having weight gain and obesity generally maintain that throughout their lifetime,” O’Connor said. 

Crocco, the leader of the Colorado Healthy Hospital Compact, says there’s been a gap between what hospitals practice and what they preach. Since the compact started in 2014, four hospitals, a little less than 20 percent of those taking part in the Colorado program, have dropped sugary drinks, she said. If patients and visitors “want a soda, they can bring it in themselves,” but the participating hospitals don’t offer them. 

The impact of all of the changes at Children’s is significant in terms of the number of people who consume food and beverages. More than 10,000 people work there, including contract workers, volunteers and interns. So far in 2017, the cafeteria made more than 664,000 individual sales, with customers spending an average of more than $5 per ticket. 

The hospital also has a wellness program that promotes a variety of other measures: exercise — with incentives of up to $600 credit a year to an employee’s premiums for staying fit — smoking cessation, and breastfeeding. 

Plus, O’Connor said, having a healthy workforce leads to a decrease in absenteeism and leave time, and an increase in employee engagement and productivity. 

Children’s Hospital Colorado (CHCO) is a "Healthy Business," certified by Health Links, a signature program of our Center for Health, Work & Environment. 

This story is an excerpt from Colorado Public Radio.