The Critical Role of Food in Patient-centered Health Care

By Sara Guastello, Cynthia Jecusco, Jill Harrison and Michael Lepore.

Published by Food Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Focus group research with hospital patients and long-term care residents demonstrates that the connections between food and health care extend far beyond the nutritional aspects of one’s diet. Food not only provides patients sustenance and nourishment, but also comfort, pleasure, a sense of routine and socialization. Food can also present opportunities for patient education about the implications of diet on chronic disease management and overall health. It is fitting, then, that food and nutrition is one of the core components of the Planetree model of patient-centered care being implemented in more than 500 health care settings in North America and abroad. The Institute of Medicine defines patient-centered care as “…providing care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions…” When this definition is applied to food services in the health care setting, no longer will bland, unappealing, institutional food suffice. This article spotlights practical ways that patient-centered providers across the health care continuum are revisiting every aspect of their dining programs to maximize choice, personalization, opportunities for education and socialization, and health promotion while incorporating gardens, farmers’ markets and community education into their offerings. Data demonstrate the link between patients’ food experiences and their overall satisfaction with their care.

Keywords: Focus Group, Patient-centered Care, Planetree, Nutrition in Healthcare, Community Education, Research, Designated Hospital, Designation, Patient-centered Food Services

Food Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp.9-20. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 696.947KB).

Sara Guastello

Director, Designation and Resource Development, Planetree, Inc., Derby, CT, USA

Sara Guastello is Director of Designation and Resource Development for Planetree. In this role, she oversees the Patient-Centered Hospital Designation Program® and the associated Patient-Centered Merit Recognition Program, the only such program to recognize excellence in patient- and resident-centered care across the continuum of care and around the world. Sara collaborates and consults with Planetree members and other partners to heighten awareness and understanding of patient- and resident-centered approaches to care. She has numerous publications including the forthcoming edited collection The Putting Patients First Field Guide: Global Lessons in Designing and Implementing Patient-Centered Care (Jossey-Bass Publishing, 2013) and articles in the American Journal of Nursing Patients First Series, the International Hospital Federation World Hospitals and Health Services Journal, Provider magazine and The Patient journal. She has authored white papers on integrating the patient and family voice into hospital operations and advancing person-centered care across the continuum of care, and developed a series of toolkits spotlighting field-tested strategies for HCAHPS improvement. With support from The Picker Institute, She led the efforts to create the Patient-Centered Care Improvement Guide and the companion Long-Term Care Improvement Guide, comprehensive compendiums of premiere patient- and resident-centered practices in place at health care organizations around the world.

Cynthia Jecusco

Resource and Contract Manager, National Headquarters, Planetree, Inc., Derby, CT, USA

Cynthia Jecusco has worked in the areas of product and project management for over two decades. She began her journey with Planetree, Inc. over six years ago, with the charge of developing and managing employee, patient and community satisfaction surveys for affiliate hospitals across the U.S. She also facilitated focus groups based on the ten core components of the Planetree patient-centered care model, one being the nutritional and nurturing aspect of food. It was through these mediums that her interest in food and nutrition studies deepened and she began managing the catering for various corporate events with an emphasis on health promotion, including an annual international conference which attracts close to 1,000 attendees. She presents sessions on nutrition to audiences of students, residents, PAs and physicians. Degrees include a BS in Management from Post University and an MBA from Sacred Heart University, both located in Connecticut.

Jill Harrison

Research Consultation Specialist, Planetree, Inc., Derby, CT, USA

Jill Harrison, PhD. is a Research Consultation Specialist for Planetree, an international non-profit membership organization that provides education and training in patient-centered care for organizations across the healthcare continuum. She completed her postdoctoral fellowship, funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), at Brown University’s Center for Gerontology and Health Care Research. More recently, Jill served as an investigator at Women and Infants hospital in Rhode Island where she worked on a collaborative project with researchers at Brown University to study advance care planning and social network support among women with metastatic cancers. She received her doctorate in sociology from Virginia Tech.

Michael Lepore

Director of Quality, Research, & Evaluation, Planetree, Inc., Derby, CT, USA

Michael Lepore, PhD is Planetree’s Director of Quality, Research, & Evaluation, and an Investigator in Health Services, Policy & Practice at Brown University. Michael transitioned to health services research after working as a frontline caregiver in assisted living. Building on this experience, Michael completed studies on assisted living workers’ employment motivations, relationships between assisted living workers and residents, and strategies for hiring and training assisted living staff. Michael’s recent research more broadly examines long-term care quality, access, and equity, with publications addressing racial differences in hospice use, the socio-economic and geographic patterns of nursing home closures, and the relationship between nursing home staffing and hospice use in the nursing home. Now, Michael is leading an intervention and evaluation of a transitional care program supporting patients’ transitions from hospital to nursing home to home, and is pilot testing an organizational measure of person-centered care for the spectrum of long-term care settings.