YAKIMA – Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital and Memorial Family of Services have joined the Healthier Hospitals Initiative, a national campaign to focus on sustainability in health care and improve the health of communities, reduce environmental impact and decrease overall health care costs through better public health.
Launched in April 2012, the Initiative urges hospitals to commit to improve the health and safety of patients, staff and communities by using free, step-by-step guides to implement up to six challenges that focus on sustainability. Memorial has committed to meet three of the six challenges over the next three years:
• Engage leadership on environmental health and sustainability;
• Serve healthier foods and beverages;
• Leaner energy challenge.
Memorial CEO Russ Myers signed the Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge on Tuesday, Jan. 13 – the first hospital in Central Washington to do so – kicking off Memorial’s participation in the Healthier Hospitals Initiative.
“As a health care leader in the Yakima Valley, Memorial must be in tune not only with the health care needs of individual patients, but with the greater needs of our community. We must be a community role model for healthy living, environmental stewardship and fiscal responsibility,” Myers says. “And having clearly defined goals for healthier food, engaged leadership and leaner energy use aligns with our strategic vision: to create healthy communities one person at a time.”
Roughly 75 percent of all health care costs nationally are for the treatment of chronic diseases, according to the Healthier Hospitals Initiative. Nationally, the United States spends an estimated $147 billion to treat obesity alone, another $116 billion to treat diabetes, and hundreds of billions to treat cardiovascular disease and cancer. By addressing the root causes of disease, health care providers and patients together can reduce the burden of chronic disease in their communities.
Yakima County exceeds the Washington state obesity rates, with one in every three adults and one in six children or adolescents identified as obese. Obesity contributes to high rates of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, which are among the leading causes of death in Yakima County.
Memorial has consistently worked to improve access to care and to educate the community about obesity and chronic diseases that are prevalent in our community, including diabetes, offering comprehensive diabetes education and prevention programs and a nutrition and fitness education program for at-risk children and their families, among other programs.
The new Initiative includes changes that enable Memorial to create a healthier workforce, as well as a healthier community, while reducing our carbon footprint and operating more sustainably.
Memorial also will be making significant changes to serve healthier food and beverages, including:
• Decreasing the amount of meat purchased by 20 percent within a three-year period, subsequently reducing fossil fuel use and modeling healthy eating behaviors;
• Increasing healthy beverage purchases, with healthy beverage purchases accounting for 80 percent of total beverage purchases over three years, helping to reduce rates of obesity and chronic illness, as well as associated health care costs;
• Increasing the percentage of local (within 250 miles) food purchased by 20 percent annually.
“So much of what we eat isn’t nutritious anymore. People are busy. They don’t cook healthy meals and they eat a lot of processed foods, which contributes to health problems in our community,” Memorial Community Health Director Bertha Lopez says. “We have a responsibility to set a good example for our community, whether it be nutrition, waste or energy use, because a healthy environment contributes to a healthy population, which builds a healthy economy.”
Memorial has appointed an executive sponsor for the Healthier Hospitals Initiative, and Memorial’s leadership commits to creating an environmental sustainability plan, measures and reports, starting in 2015.
In addition, Memorial has agreed to take on the “Leaner Energy” challenge – specifically, to reduce greenhouse gases from metered energy use by 3 percent from baseline. Initially, Memorial will be looking to determine its baseline for energy use to determine specific areas for improvement, then developing strategies to reduce energy use. These activities will occur over time in the coming months.
In 2016, Memorial will take on the remaining challenges of the Initiative: reduction of waste and increased recycling, use of safer chemicals and purchase of environmentally preferable products.
About Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital and Memorial Family of Services
Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital and Memorial Family of Services employ roughly 2,500 people, making Memorial the largest employer in Central Washington’s Yakima County, with a core purpose to inspire people to thrive. Memorial Hospital is a 226-bed, acute-care, nonprofit community hospital. Memorial Family of Services includes primary care practices and specialty care services, including high-quality cardiac care, a continuum of cancer care, nationally-recognized home health and hospice care, and advanced services for children with special health care needs. Visit Memorial online at yakimamemorial.org or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/yakimavalleymemorialhospital), Twitter (www.twitter.com/Yakima_Memorial) or Pinterest (www.pinterest.com/yvmh).
About the Healthier Hospitals Initiative
The Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI) is a national campaign to implement a completely new approach to improving environmental health and sustainability in the health care sector. Eleven of the largest, most influential U.S. health systems, comprising over 500 hospitals with more than $20 billion in purchasing power, worked with Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), the Center for Health Design and Practice Greenhealth to create HHI as a guide for hospitals to improve sustainability in six key areas: engaged leadership, healthier foods, leaner energy, less waste, safer chemicals, and smarter purchasing. More information is available at www.healthierhospitals.org.