Thoughts on hospital food – NNM in Helsinki

Today at the NNM conference in Helsinki,
there have been a lot of discussions about on food in hospitals.

Very often, hospital food – in Iceland anyway and I´m guessing not only in Iceland from what I´ve heard today – is bland, grayish, tasteless – often cooked together in plastic trays in big steam ovens.
In one word disgusting.

In Icelandic, we call food that tastes horrible “hospital food” or “spítalamatur”.
That tells a story….

Doesn´t sound very appetising does it?

We are constantly being told to eat the “correct” food…healthy, not too much salt, not too much sugar, less fat, fresh, made from real ingredients….

It is then strange that when we loose our health, the food we get served isn´t up to that standard, at the time when we actually need it the most.

One of the things I have heard today and strikes me, is how common undernourishment seems to be in hospitals.
One in every four persons that enters a hospital is in fact undernourished and quite often the condition gets worse while staying in the hospital so the patients go out weighing less.

This also means that patients often have to stay longer then they would if properly nourished, because their immune system weakens and bone fractures take longer to heal.

A lot of money is being spent in researching medicine and buying equipment, while this basic factor has been overseen or not given enough attention.

I heard talks from various people, about researches being made on the link between patients health and nutrition. In other words Nutritional therapy.

I was very happy to hear doctors talk about the subject and how it is being implemented in different ways in numerous hospitals in the Nordic countries.

There also the matter of wasted food – food being thrown away every day at hospitals because the patients don´t want to or can´t eat it. I don´t remember how high a percentage it was – but it was high!

Here are also a few interesting facts I heard today…

At least 40% of people in hospitals is underweight and only in 10% of the cases something is being done about it.
It´s 50% as expensive to treat patients that are underweight.
Patients often only eat about 25% of what they should eat.

If nutrition is taken into account and the patients nutritional needs met – they recover more quickly and spend on average 20% less time in the hospital.
They also need less help after they return from the hospital.

It´s not only the food itself that matters.
It´s also the environment the food is eaten in and the way it is presented that matters.
Another thing is, that not all patients have appetite at the same time.
Some might even be in treatment while food is being served, so by the time they reach their tray of grayish food – it´s already cold as well.

So….all things given…I think it´s well about time the real value of food is given more attention.
It would save money as well as lifes, so it will not only benefit the patients, but also the economy.