Change can occur through a diverse range of models, however significant enabling factors include Executive Leadership support, effective stakeholder consultation, communication strategies, and consideration of sustainability measures past the end of the funding period.
The following lessons summary is provided from the 2018 Partners in Prevention Forum - healthier drinks in health care panel discussion.
Dominique Ryan, Senior Dietitian, Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service
Key message: Laying the groundwork to enable sustainable change
The Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service (SCHHS) was interested in pursuing the healthier drinks strategy and saw opportunities to extend partnerships with the University of the Sunshine Coast in the form of student placements, supported by the SCHHS Staff Wellness/Health 4 Life. This project was the second of three placement projects with a central task to develop an implementation plan for Healthy Drinks. Students forged initial relationships with hospital food and drink retail outlets and gathered baseline data in the complex environment. Funding has since been granted for a Healthy Drinks Project Officer who – with the support of ongoing students placements - will continue with the implementation of the project and ensure its sustainability across the different sites within the SCHHS.
Annabelle Stack, Project Officer Healthy Choices, Metro South Hospital and Health Service
Key message: Wide stakeholder engagement can result in productive partnerships
The Healthier drinks project in Metro South Hospital and Health Service (MSHHS) took a broad and comprehensive approach with stakeholder engagement. From consumers to clinical staff, retail and suppliers, auxiliary and foundations, valuable partnerships were formed to drive positive changes in the food and drink supply. A key result was no negative impact on revenue and in fact an overall increase was achieved.
Debbie Carroll, Chief Operating Officer, Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service
Key message: Executive leadership support drives change
As the only HHS not to access funding, Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service (WBHHS) were successful in removing sugary drinks from sale in a short time by gathering support at the Board and Executive Management level, and establishing an expectation that the health service would be a leader in the Healthier drinks space. The transition took a few months and was pre-empted by implementation consultation with staff and consumers, and suppliers/retailers.
Rohan Ballon, Community Nutritionist, South West Hospital and Health Service
Key message: Quality project delivery can embed changes long term
All the hallmarks of good project management can be identified in the Healthier drinks work at South West Hospital and Health Service (SWHHS). A baseline audit revealed a drink supply dominated by unhealthy options but a consumer survey showed an expectation for more healthy options within a health setting. A working group representing all key stakeholder groups worked through a phased approach, supported by Executive Leadership team. Changes were embedded in policy and communication strategies utilised to prevent slippage. The project has ended but the changes remain.
Dr Ayala Rogany, Dietitian - Clinical Leader Obesity, Children's Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service
Key message: Measuring change (evaluation) can prove positive results
Children's Health Queensland (CHQHHS) and West Moreton Hospital and Health Service (WMHHS) partnered with University of Queensland (UQ) to conduct a formal evaluation of healthier drinks implementation across all sites. Working with suppliers, and using pre- and post-audits, the HHSs were able to demonstrate that sales of healthy drinks increased whilst unhealthy drink sales fell, with proven staff and visitor support for the changes.
Key discussion points raised by the audience
- Some HHSs have found that consumer support for healthy changes is stronger than staff support. Some important strategies for progressing change were identified, including
- Union consultation
- Framing of the change as health services leading by example by making a system change – less focus on the individual
- Promote the positives including increasing healthier choices, and more accessibility and availability (e.g. more free water, 24 hours healthy options through improved vending)
- Healthy changes to food and drinks is moving with consumer and business trends currently so it is an opportune time to make progress in health services.
- Key challenges in health settings include staff resistance, fundraising activities, and increasingly, the complexity of retail services which can be set up as hubs with franchise operations.