Health Leader Fellows tour Beaumont for look at how healthcare can lead environmental change
Hospital's 'Food Day' celebration addresses misuse of antibiotics in agriculture
Nineteen doctors, nurses, dietitians, and public health professionals from across Michigan, all of them participants in the Ecology Center’s year-long Health Leaders Fellowship program, toured Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak last week for a close look at how health systems can have a positive impact on the environment.
The visit coincided with Beaumont’s observation of Food Day, a nationwide celebration to promote healthy, affordable and sustainable food.
Beaumont is one of 20 Michigan hospitals, and more than 350 across the country, marking Food Day by taking a stand against antibiotic misuse in animal agriculture, serving at least one meal containing meat or poultry raised without the routine, nontherapeutic use of antibiotics.
Antibiotic overuse in animal agriculture contributes to antibiotic resistant “superbugs” that threaten human health, according to Rebecca Meuninck, environmental health campaign director at the Ecology Center and coordinator of the Health Leaders Fellowship program.
“The important antibiotics relied on for human medicine are no longer effective in fighting these resistant bacteria, which means treating basic injuries and diseases as simple as a child’s scratched knee or an ear infection can become a health emergency,” she says.
“Approximately 80 percent of antibiotics used in the animal agriculture in the United States are given to generally healthy animals to promote growth promotion or to address unsanitary farm conditions, while hospitals are dealing with a crisis of antibiotic resistance and medicines that have been relied upon for decades are now failing.”
Hospitals like Beaumont and the others participating in events like Food Day can help solve the growing antibiotic resistance problem by encouraging changes in animal agriculture.
“The health-care sector can lead this transformation by using their purchasing power to serve healthier food to their patients and employees as well as drive healthy, sustainable practices in the communities they serve,” Meuninck says. “Hospitals participating in Food Day hope to show large meat suppliers that demand for healthier, more sustainable food options is growing if they are willing to provide it.”
In Beaumont’s celebration of Food Day, the hospital served a barbecue featuring antibiotic-free chicken and grilled eggplant that was grown locally, according to Maureen Husek, Beaumont’s director of nutrition and retail services. “Serving healthy and local food options to our staff and patients is a priority for us at Beaumont.”
Beaumont also hosted a farmers’ market at the hospital and gave Michigan apples to all of their staff.
On their visit, the Health Leader Fellows were able to see how Beaumont is reducing the use of toxic chemicals and becoming more energy efficient, in addition to providing sustainably grown and produced food for their staff, patients and visitors.
The Health Leaders Fellowship program, a pilot project launched earlier this year at the Ecology Center, addresses critical environmental health issues and trains fellows in civic engagement to create a community of likeminded peers that can advocate for positive environmental health changes in the health care setting and in the public policy arena.
"As trusted spokespeople for institutional and policy change, health professionals are uniquely positioned to tackle some of the most pressing environmental health challenges,” Meuninck says. “Many health professionals are keen to learn what impact the environment has on human health and how diseases can be prevented by improving environmental conditions in communities.”
Other Michigan health care facilities that celebrated Food Day include Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo; Bronson Battle Creek; St. Joseph Mercy Hospital of Ann Arbor; McLaren Northern in Petoskey; Otsego Memorial Hospital in Gaylord; St. John Macomb Hospital in Warren; Borgess Lee Memorial in Dowagiac; St. Joseph Mercy Hospital of Livingston; Borgess Pipp Hospital in Plainwell; St. John Hospital & Medical Center in Detroit; McLaren Medical Center in Mt. Clemens; St. John Oakland Hospital in Madison Heights; Brighton Center for Recovery; St. Mary’s of Michigan in Saginaw; Genesys Regional Medical Center in Grand Blanc; McLaren Bay Region in Bay City, St. John River District Hospital in East China; St. Mary’s of Michigan in Standish; and St. Joseph Hospital in Tawas