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AUGUST 2012 – Two progressive, award-winning New Jersey hospitals have become the first in the Garden State to implement an innovative program designed to help visitors and staff make healthier choices when dining in the facilities' cafeteria and other public food service areas.
Hackensack (NJ) University Medical Center and Overlook Medical Center in Summit, NJ today announced the launch of the Guiding Stars® nutrition guidance program, an at-a-glance rating system that helps diners quickly and easily identify nutritious choices to encourage healthy eating habits.
The Guiding Stars system rates, with zero to three stars, the nutritional value of every available item in the facility, including hot and cold prepared foods, salad bar, grab-and-go items and beverages. Each item is then labeled with a corresponding tag, sticker or other signage: one Guiding Star is good, two Guiding Stars is better and three Guiding Stars is best. Foods that receive no stars do not meet the program's rigorous criteria. All items are evaluated using a patented algorithm based on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Dietary Guidelines for Americans and other national evidence-based nutrition policies.
"We are very pleased to introduce the Guiding Stars program into these two innovative leaders in the health care community," said John Eldredge, director of brand and business development for Guiding Stars. "Being in the business of wellness, it makes perfect sense for these facilities to encourage healthier eating by making it simple for employees and visitors to make nutritious food choices."
Hackensack and Overlook medical centers are part of a growing number of hospitals, public schools, colleges and other food service facilities, as well as more than 1,700 grocery stores, to implement the Guiding Stars system that helps diners and shoppers cut through the clutter of the Nutrition Facts panel and ingredients list by clearly and simply highlighting good nutritional choices.
"Encouraging a healthy lifestyle is a core part of our mission, and the Guiding Stars system makes it easy for guests and employees to take an active role in improving and maintaining their overall health and quality of life," said Irma Newdorf, RD, MPH, assistant director of nutrition and food management at Hackensack UMC.
Overlook Medical Center, part of Atlantic Health System, is taking the program a step further, coupling Guiding Stars with its Summit Fit Program that awards fit points to employees for making healthy choices. Employees earn points for every Guiding Stars-rated item they buy, along with other healthy choices like drinking water rather than sugary beverages. Employees can then redeem accumulated points for gift certificates good toward purchases in the hospital cafe.
"In addition to our focus on top-notch patient care, we recognize the opportunity we have as a community leader to encourage good health and well-being among everyone in the communities we serve," said Todd Kaminksy, retail coordinator for food service at Overlook Medical Center. "By improving the nutritional profile of our offerings and demonstrating just how easy it is to make nutritious choices here at our facility, our goal is to encourage staff and visitors to make the same good choices once they leave our campus."
In addition to providing nutritional guidance for cafeteria guests, the Guiding Stars program can also be easily expanded to include patient menus in hospital settings.
About Atlantic Health System
Atlantic Health System is one of the largest non-profit health care systems in New Jersey, comprised of Morristown Medical Center, Overlook Medical Center in Summit and Newton Medical Center. The three medical centers – all accredited by The Joint Commission – have a combined total of 1,308 licensed beds and more than 2,750 affiliated physicians providing a wide array of health care services to the residents of Northern and Central New Jersey. Specialty service areas include advanced cardiovascular care, pediatric medical and surgical specialties, neurology, orthopedics, and sports medicine. Each of these programs has earned top ratings and recognitions in their respective fields. Atlantic Health System is the official health care partner of the New York Jets and an official health care provider of the New Jersey Devils.
Morristown Medical Center’s Gagnon Cardiovascular Institute performs more heart surgeries than any other hospital in New York or New Jersey, and is one of 20 facilities across the country to perform catheter-based repair and replacement of valves on both sides of the heart. Atlantic Health System’s spine program – where surgeons perform more spine surgery than anywhere else in New Jersey – is one of just 13 hospitals across the country that has received the Gold Seal of Approval™ from The Joint Commission, achieving Disease-Specific Care Certification for cervical and lumbar spine treatments. With the Atlantic Neuroscience Institute based at Overlook Medical Center, the hospital serves as the hub for the New Jersey Stroke Network, and serves about 40 percent of the state’s stroke patients. The system’s Goryeb Children’s Hospital offers more than 100 board-certified physicians in 20 pediatric specialties. Morristown Medical Center is verified as a Level I Regional Trauma Center by the American College of Surgeons and designated a Level II by the state of New Jersey.
Atlantic Health System has been chosen for the past three consecutive years by FORTUNE® as one of the magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For®.” The organization has also been recognized four times by AARP as one of the “Best Employers for Workers over 50.” Inside Jersey magazine partnered with Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. and ranked Morristown Medical Center as the No. 1 hospital in New Jersey and the No. 1 hospital for treatment of heart failure and coronary surgery in the state. The survey findings also establish Overlook as No.1 for the treatment of neurological disorders and stroke in NJ. Atlantic Health System is a Major Clinical Research Affiliate with The Cancer Institute of New Jersey and is the primary academic and clinical affiliate in New Jersey of Mount Sinai School of Medicine and The Mount Sinai Hospital.