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Kaiser Permanente to Provide Calorie, Nutrition Information on Cafeteria Menus

OAKLAND, Calif., July 27 /PRNewswire/ -- Kaiser Permanente, a leader in promoting healthy eating, will become the first large health care provider in the country to offer calorie and nutrition information on its hospital cafeteria menus after a recent study showed that patrons chose healthier options when menus are labeled with those details.

According to the study, conducted by the University of California at Berkeley's Center for Weight and Health at five Kaiser Permanente cafeteria sites, patrons selected healthier options when menus were labeled with calorie information. More than 80 percent of patrons surveyed felt that Kaiser Permanente was helping them to improve their health by providing them with nutritional information in the cafeteria.

"This innovative program shows that people want nutrition information when they eat in places like cafeterias and restaurants, and that having the information gives consumers more control," said Kelly D. Brownell, Ph.D., director, Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Yale University. "It would be wonderful if this were done on a broad scale."

Public health advocates are calling for menu labeling at restaurants as a way to improve the nation's eating habits and curb obesity. More than twenty states and localities have considered policies that would require fast-food and other chain restaurants to provide calories and other nutrition information on menus and menu boards. The state of California has recently passed a law to do so. Menu labeling has also been proposed as part of the national health reform legislation.

"If we want people to make healthier choices, we need to give them the information they need to make those choices," said Raymond J. Baxter, Ph.D. senior vice president, Community Benefit, Research and Health Policy at Kaiser Permanente. "Providing calorie and nutrition information for our cafeteria patrons demonstrates Kaiser Permanente's commitment to the health of our members, staff and communities."

Beginning this year, Kaiser Permanente will place calorie information on menu boards in the cafeterias it operates in California, Oregon and Hawaii. In other states, where Kaiser Permanente does not operate its own cafeterias, the programs will be phased in over time.

"We are pleased to set an example that will encourage healthier choices for our employees and communities," said Dean Edwards, vice president and chief procurement officer at Kaiser Permanente.

For the study, five Kaiser Permanente cafeterias participated in one of three study conditions 1) calorie labeling on menu boards and placards at the point of purchase; 2) a wall poster with both calorie and detailed nutrition information; or 3) no information. Patron's lunchtime purchases were assessed before and four weeks after labeling had been introduced using electronic cash register records at two sites and by direct observation at all sites.

More than 500 patrons completed cafeteria exit surveys four weeks after labeling was introduced at the various hospitals during the period from August to November, 2008. Two-thirds of the respondents at the menu board sites noticed the calorie information and nearly one-third of those who noticed the information reported that they altered their purchase as a result of the information. This is one of few studies of its kind to track the impact of menu board labeling on purchasing behavior and patron attitudes with such a rigorous research design.

"This research showed that posting calorie counts changes patron food selections," said Karen Webb, co-author of the study and researcher at the Center for Weight and Health, College of Natural Resources, University of California, Berkeley. "Based on the changes we observed on patrons' lunch choices, and the frequency with which patrons go to the cafeteria over the course of a week, this kind of intervention could prevent up to five pounds of unwanted weight gain per year, provided people don't compensate by eating more calories at other meals, or in other settings."

Kaiser Permanente's collaboration with UC Berkeley on the menu-labeling study builds on the organization's efforts to bring healthier, sustainable food options to its patients, staff and communities and its broader obesity prevention efforts.

These strategies include:

  • Support of comprehensive, place-based community health initiatives focusing on Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) in 40 communities across the country.
  • A wide array of nationally recognized weight management programs made available to its members at its medical centers, in community settings and on-line.
  • The creation of 30 farmers' markets at or near Kaiser Permanente facilities in six states and, urging neighborhood markets and corner stores to offer and prominently display more fresh produce.
  • Support for local, sustainable agriculture through the purchase of 74 tons of produce from small and mid-sized family farms for patient meals.
  • Implementation of national Healthy Picks program offering healthier food selections in Kaiser Permanente cafeterias and vending machines.
  • Offering rBGH-free milk in cafeterias, vending machines and patient meals.
  • Providing 100 percent zero trans fat environment in all California food service by the end of 2009.

Find out more about Kaiser Permanente's efforts to promote healthy communities at:

About Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America's leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, our mission is to provide high-quality, affordable health care services to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve 8.6 million members in nine states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to:

SOURCE Kaiser Permanente
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