Hospital Eliminates Sale of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages,
Boosts Healthful Eating

Sodas, sports drinks, sweetened juices, fast food and grab-and-go vending machine snacks are staples of many American diets, and this fare has become a major contributor to obesity and chronic disease across the nation. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the added sugars from sugary drinks are directly tied to an increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Penn Medicine is taking strides to eliminate these foods from its facilities in an effort to ensure that the food its serves aligns with its missions to care for, educate, and empower patients who are coping with heart disease, diabetes, and many other illnesses.

"As a health system, we aspire to create a model environment for the health and wellness of our patients, their families, and our employees, an effort which extends to the food and drinks we serve in our cafeterias, snack bars, coffee stands, and vending machines," says Ralph Muller, CEO of the University of Pennsylvania Health System. "Our work to prevent and care for patients with chronic conditions impacted by their diets includes educating them on healthy food and beverage choices—lessons which we believe should be mirrored by what we serve in our facilities."

Over the next several months, Penn Medicine will begin implementing changes across its hospital campuses, eventually removing all beverages with added sugars, such as regular soda, fruit-flavored drinks, sports drinks, and sweetened milk, tea, and coffee drinks. Diet and unsweetened beverages, 100% fruit juice, milk and an array of flavored-water options will be available.

In addition to these drink-specific changes, several Penn Medicine hospitals—Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Pennsylvania Hospital, and Chester County Hospital—have begun making changes to the food they serve, efforts which align with the "Good Food, Healthy Hospitals" initiative of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

"Every day in our clinics, our care teams are counseling patients on the importance of healthy behaviors and for some, looking to food as medicine to help with disease prevention and management," says C. William Hanson, MD, chief medical information officer and a professor of anesthesiology and critical care at Penn Medicine. "We're already encouraging our patients to make healthy choices each day, and promoting those same kinds of behaviors among our staff and hospital visitors is a logical step in this ongoing health care evolution."

From eliminating chain fast food restaurant leases to banning smoking on hospital property, health systems nationwide have taken steps in recent years to encourage healthful behaviors for everyone on their campuses. At Penn Medicine, these efforts also have included tools for encouraging smoking cessation and blood pressure control for staff.

"It is well-reported that these kinds of sugary drinks lead to adverse health effects when consumed regularly or in large quantities," Hanson says. "Our hope with this initiative is that more of our patients, visitors, and staff will be encouraged to make healthy choices while at our facilities—decisions we hope will extend to their lives outside of our walls."

Patients, visitors, and staff will continue to have the option to bring in their own beverages. And while sugar-sweetened beverages will no longer be available in Penn Medicine–owned and –operated facilities, third-party vendors on campuses and within hospitals—such as Starbucks and Freshii—will continue to serve beverages of their choosing.

— Source: Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania