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In Sickness and in Health: Mediterranean Diet Applications across the Continuum of Care

Amanda Goldman, MS, RD, LD, FAND

A thought-leadership conference was held with food industry experts, scientists, foodservice operators, wellness experts and opinion leaders in Washington, DC on June 27, 2019. This exceptional event was the Mediterranean Diet Roundtable(MDR) and it was led by its founder, Daniela Puglielli and her team mem-ber, Flavia Bonelli. The goal of the MDR was for par-ticipants around the world to gain a deeper under-standing of the health values, market trends & com-mercial benefits of the Mediterranean Diet through an informative and dynamic open forum. Dignitaries from 14 countries were in attendance. Another goal was to bridge theory and practice to be able to better work together to inspire individuals to make healthier food choices via expanded offerings in a variety of settings.

The first Mediterranean Diet Roundtable was held in New York City in 2015 and it has grown from there. Similar events have since been held in Beverly Hills, Boston and even in Rome, Italy. That one included a well-received program on nutrition in acute care. After these successful conferences, it was deter-mined that there was a need to include a session on healthcare across the continuum of care in the fu-ture. A panel approach seemed best and from that idea, Mary Angela Miller, MS, RDN, LD reached out to various colleagues to gauge their interest in participating. Healthcare nutrition leaders in multiple segments along the continuum of care were asked to weigh in on how they integrated healthy diet patterns into their operations. Not just the fad of the day, but genuinely valid concepts backed by science; ones that could be incorporated into a variety of life-styles. In this case, the Mediterranean Diet was ref-erenced as a concept that both providers & clients, customers, community, patient and/or residents had expressed interest in as one worthy of adding variety to a menu or expanding food choices in the quest for health.

Mary Angela Miller, Clinical Instructor at The Ohio State University and former OSU Wexner Medical Center Foodservice Director & Hospital Administra-tor, served as the moderator for the session.

Displayed below is a summation of how four differ-ent leaders leveraged interest regarding the Medi-terranean Diet into programs, menus, retail offer-ings, nutrition counseling & therapy, and other ser-vices they offered at each point in the continuum of health care.

Community Care: Michael Folino, MBA, RDN, LD, former Associate Director, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Columbus, OH (current Director of Support Services, Akron Children’s Hos-pital, Akron, OH).

Key Points:

  • Community gardens provide access and educa-tion about the importance of consuming a diet high in fruits and vegetables
  • Mobile Education Kitchens are able to provide greater access to healthy foods and nutri-tion information in multiple places within the local community; Education assists with moving towards preventative care

Acute Care: Angelo Mojica,PhD, RD, CEC, Senior Director of Food & Culinary Services, Johns Hopkins Health System, Baltimore, MD.

Key Points:

  • Elements of the Mediterranean Diet are easily able to be incorporated into healthier din-ing options in hospitals for patients, staff & visitors
  • Wholesome diets that are also delicious will be also be consumed more and are a way to nourish patients to facilitate discharge

Chronic Care: Amanda Goldman, MS, RD, LD, FAND, former System Director of Food & Nutrition Services and Di-rector of Diabetes & Nutrition Care, CHI Saint Joseph Health, Lexington, KY (currentHealthcare Industry Sales Strategist, Gordon Food Service).

Key Points:

  • Components of the Mediterranean Diet, such as fresh fruits & vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes, are encouraged during nutrition education sessions as an aid in the treatment of such chronic disease as dia-betes
  • Evidence-based research shows that the Mediterranean Diet assists with preventing Type 2 Diabetes and with improving glycemic control

Extended Care: Suzanne Cryst, RDN, CSG, LD, Nutrition Services Director, Hickory Ridge Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, Akron, OH.

Key Points:

  • Components of the Mediterranean Diet are becoming more popular in the senior living space
  • The Mediterranean Diet is a way to add interest & variety, along with nourishing meals within senior dining

In summary, what was most appreciated about the information shared were the practical examples provided, along with the outcomes & successes achieved. More & more frequently, nutrition & healthcare leaders work in system environments, ones that provide care at multiple points. These thought-provoking suggestions and recom-mendations demonstrated how elements of the Mediterranean Diet were embedded thematically throughout the continuum of care. The same thought process can be applied as a way to accommodate public interest and to assist with improving the consumption of components of the Mediterranean Diet. Data shows that if Americans adjusted their diets to be about 20% more Mediterranean-like, that could save the United States close to $26 bil-lion per year in healthcare costs. Not only will the overall health of individuals improve, but the health of the economy would improve as well.