Health Promoting Hospitals & Health Services

Susannah McWilliamLast week I was lucky enough to speak at a workshop on ‘Food and Wellbeing’ at the Health Promoting Hospitals & Health Services (HPH) European conference at the invitation of Health Care Without Harm Europe. Events like these always bring fresh ideas and new ways of thinking about food in hospitals and beyond.

My first stop at the airport was a quick snack en-route to the conference. The airport Spar offered an abundance of fresh fruit and veg, including organic options, and an inviting array of fresh salads just inside the doors – our high street convenience stores could learn a lot about product placement and display to tempt customers with inviting and nutritious ranges.

Speaking first at the workshop was Katarina Roth, from Austria’s Bio Forschung team. Katarina shared her work on mapping green public procurement across Europe. Inspiring case studies include Munich, where local businesses use a sponsorship model, supporting local day-care centres to upgrade their ingredient quality for the children’s meals. These centres are now using organic ingredients as most of the additional costs are sponsored.

There was great interest in my presentation on the Food for Life Hospital Leaders Programme, the Food for Life Catering Mark, and the changing policy landscape in England around staff health and wellbeing. I spoke about the changes that have been happening in English hospitals under the CQUIN, such as the removal of chocolate from till points, and the consistency now expected across all NHS retail outlets. There were lots of questions from other delegates e.g. on the challenges of existing contracts and the importance of support through national policy, so hopefully useful learning for others to take away.

The last speaker was Tina Chiu, a Taiwanese Dietitian at the Buddhist Tzu Chi Medical Foundation. She shared the innovative model in place in the Foundation’s hospitals that I don’t think is replicated anywhere in the UK. All food served in their hospitals is vegetarian, and the team actively use and develop the academic evidence base on the impact of a vegetarian diet on recovery and improvement on longer term health. It isn’t all theory though as the dietetic team run events, such as targeted workshops for patients with cardiovascular conditions teaching cooking skills, shopping tips, exercise tips, and including sessions with the cardiac specialists. For them, educating clinical staff on the benefits of vegetarian diets on health is also key, and look out for new studies due to be published soon.

So, lots of learning to take away, including an unexpected end to the trip. Such was my excitement in writing this blog that I missed the airport train stop, ended up in beautiful Austrian countryside, and had to hitchhike back to catch my plane in time! There is a first for everything, and a big thanks to Martin and his girlfriend from Slovakia who took pity on me at the roadside… I did make it home for Easter Sunday.

If you would like to find out more about our Hospital Leaders programme please contact Susannah McWilliam on or call Food for Life on 0117 314 5180.


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