What I learned about Healthy Institutions at the Bipartisan Policy Center Nutrition and Physical Activity roundtable

The places we live, work, and play are part of the social determinants at health, and most of these places are not health care institutions. This is why the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Healthy Institutions Roundtable, part of the nutrition and physical activity initiative, was so educational for me. Here’s a rundown of what I learned. They’ve posted the video of day #2 on their website. Definitely worth a look.

Oh, and I have to give kudos for permission given by the team at BPC to “tweet as much as you like, feel free to include attribution.” Sharing is power.

Hospitals and Hospitality

This was the panel I was on, representing Kaiser Permanente. I have previously posted my remarks here.

The Healthier Hospitals initiative, represented by Seema Wadwha, it’s director, was represented. This is important for hospitals across the United States because it gives them a roadmap to deliver care in a way that is healthy for patients, healthy for staff, and tools to do it. This includes sustainable food purchasing, healthy building, etc. This is just getting ready to launch, you’ll hear more about it very soon.

I previously posted about NC Prevention partners work in this area as well. The power of the story comes into play here – you can’t think that the liberation of hospital cafeteria workers to serve healthy food, and community members to come to hospitals to eat healthy food strikes an emotional chord, but it does, and it did.

We were joined by Jim Milkovich, Corporate Director of Puchasing, Hyatt, who spoke about work underway to feed hotel associates in a more mindful way, and bring healthier choices to guests as well. They’ve launched Hyatt Thrive (hmmm…like the name!) which has a health and nutrition component, as well as Recharge 365, which is targeted toward employee dining. The main Hyatt Thrive portal is here. Of note, Hyatt (along with Kaiser Permanente) has joined Partnership for a Healthier America.

The role of “taste”

My big a ha here was how much the hospitality and entertainment industry focuses on good taste as the metric. It was mentioned multiple, multiple times, by panelists throughout the day. I have thought about this a lot and had some impactful conversations:

  1. At the event, about where do our children currently learn what good taste is? I was reminded of studies in the early part of last century that showed that babies tended to choose healthier choices when offered a variety.
  2. Later, in a tour of the Center for Total Health with Liz Rockett ( @Liz_Rockett ) about what taste is surrounded by when we are growing up – a combination of discipline, caring, love from the people who serve us food.

Maybe there’s a conversation to be had about taste as the end vs the means or something like that…

Federal and Local Government

Here I was exposed to the concerns of our armed forces, and really zeroed in on the work, locally, of our DC schools.

The DC Healthy Schools Act is really a landmark piece of legislation, and as described by Jeff Mills, Food Services Director, has motivated a typically underperforming educational system to do amazing things. Take a look at the requirements in the link above. This includes a free breakfast to all students, served in the classroom, after the bell rings, so that no one goes without a healthy meal in the morning.

Sport and Entertainment Venues

Here’s an area where I was fascinated beyond all recognition, because I am not aware in my world of what happens in this world. We heard from John Fithian, President, National Association of Theatre Owners, about how healthier foods have been (in his words) “a commercial disaster.” At the same time, we heard from Jennifer Cox, VP of Culinary, Levy Restaurants, that experiments in healthier options have been tried with some success in the premium section of entertainment venues. I heard about the concept of “stealth health,” which means making healthier versions of “iconic” foods that do not dilute their value.

Overall, I was just impressed that this group was here to talk about what they have been doing. At the same time, wondering, wondering, if there were stronger connection to the health system if collaboration could result in some real innovation. I think it could, and everyone wants to help, including the customers (in my opinion).

Employee Wellness

Because this session was recorded and available on the BPC website, I’ll refer readers there to learn more.

I have previously posted about the return on Employee Wellness Programs, and I was personally delighted to meet Ron Goetzel, Ph.D., who has done so much groundbreaking work in this area.

We are fortunate to be in a time and place where we are understanding the benefits of excellent medical care and its limits in promoting total health. I am hearing the term “social determinants of health” more and more, and appreciate Bipartisan Policy Center for bringing together the diversity of experience in this area. I’m looking forward to seeing the results of their efforts.


Several years ago – I helped plan a corporate retreat for 20+ people @ a hotel.  We were going to be there for 48 hrs – with a full agenda of 10+ hrs/day of work – in one room together.  The food the hotel volunteered for us was the typical stuff – so I got engaged with the chef to shift the whole menu to “healthy.”  Rather than muffins for breakfast – we had omelets.  Lunch and dinner were altered as well.  Three lessons from this little event for me:  
1) Healthy food wasn’t more expensive;
2) We did have to ask – and order food that was not on the menu so they could plan ahead.  The chef (once I reached her) was VERY happy to help us – but the hotel management was neither happy nor helpful.  
3) People appreciate the better choices.  Despite some ribbing from our team – nearly everyone commented on how “healthy AND good” the food was.  
How can we make such choices easier?  we need to find ways to make the RIGHT choices the EASY ones to make – rather than the HARDER ones!

 @jacobmr Great comment, and experience. I wonder, too, if people in a large group wouldn’t mind having access to healthier choices. Luckily it looks like those are becoming more available, and it also sounds like when customers ask, there is a positive response,

Inappropriate exercise can do more harm than good, with the definition of “inappropriate” varying according to the individual. For many activities, especially running and cycling, there are significant injuries that occur with poorly regimented exercise schedules.

Ted Eytan, MD