Contract - Designing for Health: Branding Food for Healthcare Facilities

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Designing for Health: Branding Food for Healthcare Facilities

18 April, 2011

-By Eva Maddox, FIIDA, Associate AIA, LEED AP


"Designing for Health" is a monthly, Web-exclusive series from healthcare interior design leaders at Perkins+Will that focuses on the issues, trends, challenges, and research involved in crafting today's healing environment.

With 34 percent of adults over the age of 20 diagnosed as obese and diabetes affecting nearly 26 million Americans1, diet-related diseases are in the forefront of our national public health discourse. Fast food restaurants aren’t the only sources to blame; consider a hospital cafeteria with limited or unhealthy food options. How can this facility be reimagined to better serve and engage its users?

The film “Food, Inc.” and Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” have increased awareness of both healthful eating and food’s origins. Design, like media, can play a critical role in helping people make better food choices (case in point: advertising campaigns like got milk?, which made an everyday food item compelling). A Review of Environmental Influences on Food Choices2 states that individuals are more likely to opt for healthier food options in environments that support those choices. Hence, hospital cafeterias—not to mention schools, workplaces, and grocery stores—are fertile ground for messaging and experiences that entice users to eat healthier.

A 2005 nationwide survey conducted by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine found that fewer than one-third of hospitals offered a salad bar or low-fat entrée option; even worse, 62 percent of the “healthiest entrées” derived more than 30 percent of calories from fat3. Healthcare facilities must emphasize the connection between nutrition and wellness and, moreover, make the food appealing using attractive and eye-catching displays. Examples from beyond the hospital may provide some guidance.

Put healthy foods front and center
Whether designing a grocery’s store’s user experience or creating an advertising campaign, designers are essentially “choice architects.” In “Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness,” authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein use the example of the cafeteria: If the first thing you see is a salad bar, you’re likely to stop there. The tenants of Retailing 101 can be used to grab the attention of lunch line patrons. Consider East Coast retailer Wegman’s, which promotes health by putting produce front and center and using direct lighting and colorful descriptions to highlight healthy foods along with Wellness Keys, a branded labeling system that points out specific nutritional attributes. Last year, believing strongly in food’s role in wellness, the store put “Eat Well, Live Well” stations with fresh produce near its pharmacies.

Provide enticing alternatives
Innovative new vending machine concepts would be welcome additions to the average hospital waiting room or break room. Last year, Fresh Del Monte Produce introduced a vending machine that dispenses carrots, bananas, and other produce. Sporting engaging graphics and the punchy tagline “Taste. Feel. Live. Better!”, h.u.m.a.n. Healthy Vending machines feature healthful snacks and drinks. The company also has a broader goal—donating 10 percent of proceeds to charitable causes that fight obesity and malnutrition. Distinctive branding on the machines and on the company’s Web site makes the corporate goal clear: “help unite man and nutrition by making health foods, drinks, and information universally acceptable.” With the momentum of change happening in our nation’s school cafeteria as a result of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign, it doesn’t hurt that the branding has kid appeal. But the machines could just as easily serve over-stressed nurses who would ordinarily reach for a candy bar when in need of a quick energy fix.

Educate users
Knowledge about a food’s source is another crucial area in which design and brand play a role. Greg Christian, who does sustainability consulting for the food service industry, says the biggest problem with the average American diet is not knowing where food comes from. “When people can prove they know their food sources, that’s the best kind of brand messaging to motivate good food choices,” says Christian. This means transparency in labeling and marketing foods. A sustainable message—like a picture of a farmer on food packaging—may just be an example of greenwashing, says Christian.

Seeking to engage the community in dialogue about where their food comes from is the Mobile Food Collective, an innovative mobile cart designed by students at Archeworks, an alternative design school in Chicago4. The structure is an awareness vehicle, an example of public architecture that educates; the people behind the cart communicate the social, economic and health benefits of local food production. The full-scale prototype is made of recycled building materials and is designed to be flexible for multiple uses as an interactive, social, traveling exhibit. Just as it would fit in at a community event or farmer’s market, this cart—or a similar concept—could engage people in a hospital parking lot and encourage them to eat more healthfully.

Conclusion
Beyond simply offering low-fat and nutritious options in the lunch line, healthcare facilities must get creative. They must highlight the best options, develop partnerships with vendors offering healthy foods, and consider new ways to engage users and make the choice easy: How about a tasting table that offers eclectic samples of new-to-the-market healthy foods? Or a cart that travels to hospital rooms with healthy snacks for patients’ loved ones? Environmental changes can allow healthcare facilities to meet their broader goals for improving health while enhancing the experience for all users.

Eva L. Maddox is a design principal and board member of Perkins+Will as well as the founder of the Branded Environments discipline.

Citations:
1 Center for Disease Control (Cdc.gov)
2 “A Review of Environmental Influences on Food Choices” by Nicole Larson, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D and Mary Story, Ph.D., R.D., The Society of Behavioral Medicine, 2009
3 Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Healthy Hospital Food Initiative survey and analysis, September 2005 http://www.pcrm.org/news/downloads/hospitalfood200509.pdf
4 “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness” by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein. Yale University Press, 2008.

Additional Sources:
archeworks.org
healthyvending.com

Past installments of "Designing for Health" include (click on title to access the full article):
 

Designing for Health: Pre- and Post-Occupancy Surveys Influencing Design
Perkins+Will Research Journal—Integration of Design and Research within a Global Practice

The Role of Designers in Helping with Infection Control in Hospital Environments


The Unexpected Oasis—A medically, spiritually, and emotionally caring environment


Integrating Research into the Design Process

Altruism in the Profession
How Green is Your Furniture


Workspaces for Well-being



Designing for Health: Branding Food for Healthcare Facilities

18 April, 2011


"Designing for Health" is a monthly, Web-exclusive series from healthcare interior design leaders at Perkins+Will that focuses on the issues, trends, challenges, and research involved in crafting today's healing environment.

With 34 percent of adults over the age of 20 diagnosed as obese and diabetes affecting nearly 26 million Americans1, diet-related diseases are in the forefront of our national public health discourse. Fast food restaurants aren’t the only sources to blame; consider a hospital cafeteria with limited or unhealthy food options. How can this facility be reimagined to better serve and engage its users?

The film “Food, Inc.” and Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” have increased awareness of both healthful eating and food’s origins. Design, like media, can play a critical role in helping people make better food choices (case in point: advertising campaigns like got milk?, which made an everyday food item compelling). A Review of Environmental Influences on Food Choices2 states that individuals are more likely to opt for healthier food options in environments that support those choices. Hence, hospital cafeterias—not to mention schools, workplaces, and grocery stores—are fertile ground for messaging and experiences that entice users to eat healthier.

A 2005 nationwide survey conducted by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine found that fewer than one-third of hospitals offered a salad bar or low-fat entrée option; even worse, 62 percent of the “healthiest entrées” derived more than 30 percent of calories from fat3. Healthcare facilities must emphasize the connection between nutrition and wellness and, moreover, make the food appealing using attractive and eye-catching displays. Examples from beyond the hospital may provide some guidance.

Put healthy foods front and center
Whether designing a grocery’s store’s user experience or creating an advertising campaign, designers are essentially “choice architects.” In “Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness,” authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein use the example of the cafeteria: If the first thing you see is a salad bar, you’re likely to stop there. The tenants of Retailing 101 can be used to grab the attention of lunch line patrons. Consider East Coast retailer Wegman’s, which promotes health by putting produce front and center and using direct lighting and colorful descriptions to highlight healthy foods along with Wellness Keys, a branded labeling system that points out specific nutritional attributes. Last year, believing strongly in food’s role in wellness, the store put “Eat Well, Live Well” stations with fresh produce near its pharmacies.

Provide enticing alternatives
Innovative new vending machine concepts would be welcome additions to the average hospital waiting room or break room. Last year, Fresh Del Monte Produce introduced a vending machine that dispenses carrots, bananas, and other produce. Sporting engaging graphics and the punchy tagline “Taste. Feel. Live. Better!”, h.u.m.a.n. Healthy Vending machines feature healthful snacks and drinks. The company also has a broader goal—donating 10 percent of proceeds to charitable causes that fight obesity and malnutrition. Distinctive branding on the machines and on the company’s Web site makes the corporate goal clear: “help unite man and nutrition by making health foods, drinks, and information universally acceptable.” With the momentum of change happening in our nation’s school cafeteria as a result of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign, it doesn’t hurt that the branding has kid appeal. But the machines could just as easily serve over-stressed nurses who would ordinarily reach for a candy bar when in need of a quick energy fix.

Educate users
Knowledge about a food’s source is another crucial area in which design and brand play a role. Greg Christian, who does sustainability consulting for the food service industry, says the biggest problem with the average American diet is not knowing where food comes from. “When people can prove they know their food sources, that’s the best kind of brand messaging to motivate good food choices,” says Christian. This means transparency in labeling and marketing foods. A sustainable message—like a picture of a farmer on food packaging—may just be an example of greenwashing, says Christian.

Seeking to engage the community in dialogue about where their food comes from is the Mobile Food Collective, an innovative mobile cart designed by students at Archeworks, an alternative design school in Chicago4. The structure is an awareness vehicle, an example of public architecture that educates; the people behind the cart communicate the social, economic and health benefits of local food production. The full-scale prototype is made of recycled building materials and is designed to be flexible for multiple uses as an interactive, social, traveling exhibit. Just as it would fit in at a community event or farmer’s market, this cart—or a similar concept—could engage people in a hospital parking lot and encourage them to eat more healthfully.

Conclusion
Beyond simply offering low-fat and nutritious options in the lunch line, healthcare facilities must get creative. They must highlight the best options, develop partnerships with vendors offering healthy foods, and consider new ways to engage users and make the choice easy: How about a tasting table that offers eclectic samples of new-to-the-market healthy foods? Or a cart that travels to hospital rooms with healthy snacks for patients’ loved ones? Environmental changes can allow healthcare facilities to meet their broader goals for improving health while enhancing the experience for all users.

Eva L. Maddox is a design principal and board member of Perkins+Will as well as the founder of the Branded Environments discipline.

Citations:
1 Center for Disease Control (Cdc.gov)
2 “A Review of Environmental Influences on Food Choices” by Nicole Larson, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D and Mary Story, Ph.D., R.D., The Society of Behavioral Medicine, 2009
3 Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Healthy Hospital Food Initiative survey and analysis, September 2005 http://www.pcrm.org/news/downloads/hospitalfood200509.pdf
4 “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness” by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein. Yale University Press, 2008.

Additional Sources:
archeworks.org
healthyvending.com

Past installments of "Designing for Health" include (click on title to access the full article):
 

Designing for Health: Pre- and Post-Occupancy Surveys Influencing Design
Perkins+Will Research Journal—Integration of Design and Research within a Global Practice

The Role of Designers in Helping with Infection Control in Hospital Environments


The Unexpected Oasis—A medically, spiritually, and emotionally caring environment


Integrating Research into the Design Process

Altruism in the Profession
How Green is Your Furniture


Workspaces for Well-being
 


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