I've been writing a lot lately — too much, some readers might complain — about a pair of separate but related issues. One is the growing peril of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Experts warn that if we don't stop the misuse and overuse of antibiotics in medicine and agriculture, people will once again be susceptible to infections we've been able to control for nearly a century.
The other thing that's been on my mind is hospital food. You may have seen my blogs about the pressure on hospitals to add more healthful menu choices for their inpatients, visitors and staff — and the fallout when they do.
This spring, one health care system decided to tackle both issues head on. The Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica took the plunge by first eliminating fried food from their menus. Then they decided to serve only antibiotic-free beef, chicken and other meat.
Those are among several initiatives to promote healthful eating, environmental sustainability and other beneficial practices in their communities. They even include the use of biodegradable utensils and plates.
"With the effectiveness of key antibiotics dwindling, bacterial resistance presents a major public health challenge," says Daniel Uslan, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "It's critical that we reduce unnecessary antibiotic use in agriculture and support appropriate antibiotic use by clinicians and patients."
Adds Patricia Oliver, UCLA Health System's director of nutrition services, "We serve more than 3.4 million meals annually between our two hospitals, and we are always looking for ways to enhance and improve our services." She's the Los Angeles coordinator for the Healthy Food in Health Care program in which 128 hospitals statewide leverage their combined expertise and purchasing power to promote better food systems.