Rural health services in Western Victoria band together to ‘Defeat the Sweet’

Rural health services in Western Victoria band together to ‘Defeat the Sweet’

Seven rural health services are collectively working to reduce sugary drinks in health services in Western Victoria. Leadership support and a collaborative effort have been crucial in accelerating change in the region.

With authorisation from CEOs, a peer network, with representation from health promotion, nutrition and quality management, have come together over a six-month period and have received support from the Healthy Eating Advisory Service and Alfred Health.

The aim was to collectively reduce the availability of sugar sweetened beverages in health services to improve the health and wellbeing of patients, visitors and the workforce and to “set a good example to the community” (East Grampians Health Service).

Using the Healthy choices: policy guidelines for hospitals and health services and FoodChecker, all cafés and vending machines across the seven health services were audited to determine the baseline proportions of green, amber and red drinks available. Most sugar sweetened drinks are in the RED category.

The network came together monthly to discuss the challenges and ways to collectively overcome these as a region. A common challenge was reduced availability of GREEN and AMBER drink alternatives in rural areas. Three health services decided to remove their vending machines all together, simply because the supplier would not service the area or update the machine to fit healthier drinks.

Overall, across the seven health services the number of GREEN drinks increased from 73% to 92% in retail outlets and increased from 9% to 19% in vending machines. RED drinks decreased from 15% to 4% in retail outlets and more than halved from 48% to 17% in vending machines.”

The network continues to meet and is advocating for healthier food and drink from suppliers in rural areas.

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