Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health is taking part in a new healthy beverage initiative that will wipe out all sugary drinks from Penn Medicine-owned and operated facilities to promote healthy living for its patients and staff.
The initiative will begin this month as Penn Medicine hospitals, including LG Health, begin reducing the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages and ultimately cutting them out completely. This includes regular sodas, fruit-flavored drinks, sports drinks, and sweetened milk, tea and coffee drinks.
Dr. Chris Wenger, a preventative cardiologist at LGH, has seen the substantial health risk that added sugars pose on patients and believes it is the hospital’s ethical duty to take responsibility and start changing behaviors.
Patients, visitors and staff at the hospital will still be able to bring in outside beverages, but Wenger believes that once LG Health has made the full transition, people will start seeing the healthy choice as the easier choice and will buy the healthy drinks out of convenience.
Though third-party vendors on hospital campuses will not be subject to the new initiative, Wenger says that Pete’s Coffee at LGH has already agreed to stop serving sugary drinks to align with the hospital’s mission.
“As a health system, we aspire to create a model environment for the health and wellness of our patients, their families, and our employees,” said Ralph Muller, chief executive officer 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.”
The call for a no-sugar hospital comes as the number of Americans suffering from obesity and chronic diseases increases steadily. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, frequently drinking these sugary drinks is associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
According to Wenger, LG Health is pioneering what he hopes to be a large-scale movement toward healthier living, and he expects more hospitals to follow in their footsteps in the near future.
LG Health is gradually working toward serving healthier food options in the cafeterias and vending machines, as well, but their main focus is wiping out unhealthy drinks first.
Penn Medicine is also playing a role in the growing trend of healthy behavior in hospitals by eliminating chain fast food restaurant leases, banning smoking on hospital property and encouraging smoking cessation and blood pressure control for the hospital staffs.
“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.”