While Julie is on vacation, Susan Levy, Publisher of wellfedheart.com and dedicated reader of The Main Artery, will contribute as a guest blogger.
Not long ago I visited a “top 100 hospital” and went to the cafeteria. The special that day had creamy gravy over a biscuit and not wanting any of this cardiac center’s specials, I turned to the packaged foods. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I spotted the bag of fried “chittlins”.
Leadership in healthy choices
You’re branding the XYZ medical center as the best place for cardiovascular care, diabetes, or cancer. You create strategies and tactics for external marketing opportunities. However, the best strategy could be within your own building. The cafeteria is the single biggest gathering place in a hospital. It’s where you nourish your employees on a daily basis. And, don’t patients and their families need the best foods when they are at their most vulnerable? I would argue that the cafeteria can become a centerpiece for any institution’s commitment to healthy living, and thus an extension of your brand. So, why is it that only the rare institution actually showcases its cafeteria as a place of thoughtful eating choices with good health and nourishment?
Where marketing meets dietary
Like all lasting initiatives, this one takes teamwork and a long-term commitment. One of my favorite examples began almost a decade ago at Providence Health System in Oregon. Dietary services were already distributing the NW Guide to Heart-Healthy Living booklet in cafeterias, classes and discharge packets. Then, the marketers and dietitians got together and asked themselves how they could integrate the messages in the booklet into their culture. That question began the process of integrating heart-healthy food messages with actual available choices.
Here are three elements in their ongoing success:
Create an annual meeting of all the hospital chefs and managers to discuss consumer food trends and ideas on how to extend their NW Guide to Heart Healthy Living beyond distribution in the cafeteria. Annually, recipes are picked that work in the home kitchen, and at least half are featured in the cafeteria food line as well. One of the most popular is salmon cakes.
Toss out conventional wisdom.
Dietary began with just one breakfast item. Conventional thinking was that if people didn’t buy it in the past, they wouldn’t buy it now. New thinking prevailed: let’s try again. Today the yogurt parfait is a mainstay as a breakfast/to-go snack.
Highlight healthy options.
Place pictures from the booklet above the healthy item in the steam line. Post the nutritional labels and information for healthy options.
So my question is this: “Do your dining facilities deliver on the promise of your heart-healthy brand?”
Susan develops strategies and marketing tactics for health care organizations. With more than 20 million in print, her customized heart-healthy booklet of recipes has been used by cardiovascular centers in more than 35 states. Due to its success, and at the suggestion of hospital chefs and dietitians, The Well-Fed Heart online library was created. Susan’s blog, In My Experience, links current news in health care, research, and trends to her life as a baby boomer.