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Healthcare System Works with Supermarket Chain to Promote Health, Wellness

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media, September 28, 2009

Many individuals traditionally get wellness information from their physicians' offices, clinics, or hospitals. However, moving away from the four walls of a healthcare organization and into the community can have an impact as well, according to Patrick Quinlan, MD, CEO of Ochsner Health System, a nonprofit healthcare organization that includes seven hospitals and 35 health centers in southeast Louisiana.

Quinlan is behind a new partnership initiative—called "Choose Healthy"—with Rouses, a supermarket chain with 35 locations in Louisiana, to educate individuals about better food and lifestyle choices, disease prevention, and regular medical checkups.

“Part of our community involvement—our job—is to take care of people's health. And, we recognize that so many of the diseases that we suffer from are the result of choices people make around their lifestyles—particularly around what they eat," Quinlan said. "And unless we got to the root causes of these problems, we could not really deal with this problem successfully."

Obesity now is a nationwide problem, and its effects have been felt in Louisiana. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Louisiana is the eighth most obese state in the U.S., with about 30% of all residents considered medically obese.

"There's something about the way we're eating that is making people really fat. We need to change that," Quinlan said. "Most people want to eat the right thing, but there is just so much partial information, misinformation, or at least confusing information out there.”

With traditional healthcare, hospitals and providers generally deal "with the symptoms of diseases that grew out of things that are much more fundamental in nature around behaviors," he said. "Until we deal with those behaviors, I don't think we'll ever catch up with the problems. We need to shrink the problems."

One way to reduce the problem is draw up grocery lists, available on the Choose Healthy website, of healthy foods that individuals can purchase when they shop. Another is using "shelf talkers"—tags attached to the grocery store shelves that indicate which products are healthy, said Molly Kimball, a registered dietician with Ochsner who is helping set up the program.

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