Good Food is Essential for Good Health

News | one month ago

Good Food is Essential for Good Health

Getting good food to everyone who needs it isn't as simple as "an apple a day keeps the doctor away."

In this article from Gary Gunderson, vice president, FaithHealth, Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, and Tanya Robinson-Taylor, director, social policy advocacy, social strategy and impact, Atrium Health, we hear about Gunderson’s recent experience at the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health and his thoughts on tackling the challenges involved in addressing underlying causes of health problems.

When Atrium Health was invited to participate in the recent White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health, our team started with a basic question: Where does food come from? It is far from accessible to everyone, because we still lack public policies that guarantee access to affordable, nutritious food.

Heath systems have an important role to play in solving food insecurity. After all, food is the most fundamental contributor to a healthy life. 

Stakeholder Health

A decade ago, the White House hosted a similar conference, assembling hospital CEOs and experts from places struggling with food security. They did not create a simplistic manifesto, but instead established an agreement to help each other enter into relationships with the community to solve our most pressing health care problems, including improving access to affordable, healthy food. 

The group that first came together many years ago in the White House is now known as Stakeholder Health, and Atrium Health is a proud participant, hardwiring many of those lessons into the heart of our enterprise strategy. We evolved from talking solely about how health systems can offer an array of advanced health technologies to imagining new systems of health and wellness that include access to food, affordable housing, living wages and other essential life needs that are critical to establishing and sustaining long-term health and wellness for all.

Our efforts to improve food security

New relationships between health systems and communities are emerging and Atrium Health is creating new ways to address hunger. For example, Melanie Jane Adams, director and client executive for food and nutrition services at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, and her staff pull together family-sized meal bags for teammates with large groups or extended families to feed. They also recently put into motion a host of changes to improve the effort to solve food insecurity, including a partnership with Renew Forsyth and a local high school to introduce composting.

Atrium Health is actively pursuing a value- and mission-guided social impact strategy to improve food security and address many other important health equity issues. We know that the opportunity to be healthy is not afforded equally, and the toll of food insecurity and diet-related diseases have disproportionately impacted our most-often underserved communities, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and kidney disease. 

In addition to our programmatic efforts, Atrium Health advocates for fundamentally changing the laws, policies and systems that impede health and for strengthening our communities, so everyone has access to the resources and opportunities essential for well-being. Free lunch for all kids, for example, instead of the complicated juggling about who qualifies when. And evaluating those lunches in terms of nutrition – fresh, whole and local – not just calories.

Deepening our commitment

Before we came to the White House, we listened to our patients and the communities we serve, as well as our doctors, nurses and staff. We are committed to advancing a new system of health that includes supporting community-driven efforts to create a future where everyone has access to affordable, nutritious food.

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