Swedish Medical Center eliminates juice from pediatric menu

Fabulous news in the world of hospital medicine.  Swedish Medical Center in Seattle will no longer offer juice to its pediatric patients.

Thank you, Swedish Medical Center, for taking the initiative in improving hospital nutrition.  I am not a fan of a “Big Brother is watching you” approach, but when it comes to health care, the hospital has an obligation to provide quality care to patients who may not know any better.

Part of the hospital’s “product” is the quality of the food being provided to the “customer”, the patient, and nutrition is obviously an important component of health care.  Just as any business aims to provide only a quality product to its customer, so should all hospitals consider very closely the nature of the product they are issuing to their customers.  Choosing to provide certain foods to hospitalized patients is essentially an endorsement of that particular food.  What else is a patient to think?  “I came to you for health care and you provided this food – I can only assume that this food is consistent with your stated goal to improve my health.”

Dr. Uma Pisharody is reportedly the catalyst behind this move, and she cites the evidence linking sugar consumption to fatty infiltration of the liver in children.  The same goes for adults – it is well established that sugar consumption is associated with fatty infiltration of the liver in adults.  It’s particularly interesting (explained here) that a parent of a patient was actually the catalyst of this change, confused at why her child was offered a glass of apple juice in the hospital immediately after he had undergone a liver biopsy for the very condition that was probably caused by excess sugar consumption, despite being instructed not to allow him to drink juice at home.

When hospitalized, people often act like they’re at summer camp, or it’s a special night out on the town.  They toss aside all accountability and feel entitled to indulge in the menu offerings just because they can (and because they don’t have to prepare the food…nor do they have to pay extra for ordering more food/dessert, etc).  Some effort (whether verbally or in a written explanation), however, towards educating the patient about the hazards of sugar consumption will likely go a long way to satisfy them and reassure them that we have their best interests in mind.  Patient satisfaction will follow quality care – they may not appreciate the dietary restriction at first, so the onus is on health care to demonstrate the benefit to the patient.

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