Health services facilities in Galway have been rewarded for implementing healthier food options for staff and visitors.
The Happy Heart Healthy Eating Award programme, run in partnership between the Irish Heart Foundation and the HSE’s Healthy Eating Active Living Programme, has led to numerous facilities adopting new cooking practices and transforming food choices over the last 25 years.
The programme supports hospitals, nursing homes, disability services, and other facilities to reduce the fat, sugar, and salt in meals, increase the vegetable, salad, and fruit offering, offer healthier snacks and beverages, measure portion sizes, provide high fibre choices, and reduce processed meats.
Across 2020 and 2021, the initiative was implemented at 30 sites nationwide, supporting the health of more than 24,000 staff, with their efforts recognised at the annual Happy Heart Healthy Eating Awards, hosted by the charity and the HSE.
Nationwide the 2021 awards saw three facilities achieve the bronze standard, six achieved silver, and 21 were awarded gold, two of which were in Galway – Portiuncula University Hospital, Ballinasloe, and the Bon Secours Hospital in Galway.
A healthy and balanced diet with an active lifestyle helps reduce the risk of chronic conditions such as coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease and stroke, cause seven in 10 premature deaths in Ireland.
Irish Heart Foundation CEO, Tim Collins, who presented the virtual awards recently, said the initiative to ensure healthier food promotion and provision in workplaces was a “highly effective way to tackle heart disease and stroke”.
He added: “The Irish Heart Foundation is delighted to recognise each of these locations for creating a culture of health and wellbeing and positively influencing people’s cardiovascular health by providing a long-term sustainable programme that demonstrates commitment to staff and visitors.
“Healthcare workers are essential for promoting the health of the nation and we are passionate about creating a healthy work environment for this important group in society.”
Sarah O’Brien, the HSE’s Healthy Eating Active Living programme national lead, said: “We are delighted to have partnered with the Irish Heart Foundation to roll out the awards programme exclusively across the health services.
“Catering services and staff have an important role to play in positively influencing the quality and nutritional content of food and beverages available, making the healthier choice the easier choice for all.
“The nutrition standards for the provision of food and beverages sets out clear standards and guidelines and we are delighted to support sites to work to implement these.
“Congratulations to all those receiving their 2021 award for their hard work and dedication. We look forward to working with new facilities who sign up for the awards programme in 2022 and will continue supporting those already engaged to achieve the highest standard possible,” she said.