Northam Hospital chiefs pledge to increase healthy food for patients after audit

AUDIT: The WA Department of Health has audited food and drink available at hospitals across the state, including Northam Regional Hospital. Photo: Supplied.
AUDIT: The WA Department of Health has audited food and drink available at hospitals across the state, including Northam Regional Hospital. Photo: Supplied.

The West Australian Country Health Service has pledged to increase the amount of healthy food available at Northam Regional Hospital following an audit of the medical facility.

The WA Department of Health recently audited food and drink services provided at hospitals across the state in an effort to assess the nutritional value for patients.

The Healthy Options WA Food and Nutrition Policy aims to support and model healthy eating options in healthcare environments.

The policy applies a 'traffic light' system to classify food and drinks into green, amber and red categories.

Under the policy at least 50 per cent of options should be classified as green, with no more than 20 per cent classified as red.

The audit assessed 215 food providers such as vending machines, cafes, kiosks, canteens and ward trolleys, across 25 West Australian sites.

This included Northam Regional Hospital, which was found to not be compliant.

Health Minister Roger Cook said the majority of food and drink outlets met the policy requirement and positive changes had been made since the last audit in 2016.

"Around a third of health impacts from chronic diseases could be prevented by encouraging and supporting changes in lifestyle such as better nutrition and regular exercise," he said.

"Hospitals should be the exemplars of our healthy eating policy, this does not mean banning unhealthy food and denying the sale of treats, but they should offer choices that support healthy living.

"We also want to enable people that visit our health system to maintain a healthier lifestyle. We want to avoid situations where a person has no choice but to choose an unhealthy food or drink.

"While hospitals are yet to reach full compliance with the policy, further work has been undertaken since the audit, and each site has been provided with specific feedback to continue improvement in policy compliance."

A WACHS spokeswoman said implementing change at Northam Hospital and other health facilities in regional WA was a priority.

"The WA Country Health Service accepts the findings of the Health Options WA Policy Audit," she said.

"The organisation has been progressively implementing the requirements of the policy and will be making further progress toward compliance.

"It's important to note that this audit reflects food options available to the public through canteens, kiosks and vending machine at our facilities. It isn't reflective of the food served to patients.

"Helping Western Australians to make healthy choices forms part of the ongoing commitment to helping country people live longer, happier and healthier lives."