Children's Hospital Colorado

Our Healthy Hospital Initiative

The Healthy Hospital Initiative is a way for Children’s Hospital Colorado to model healthy behaviors, provide a healing environment and empower our staff, patients, their families and visitors to make healthy choices that lead to better overall well-being. When we take accountability for our health in our daily choices, we lead by example, and our bodies and minds are better equipped to weather personal health challenges that may lie ahead.

Read a story about a patient and his family who changed their lifestyle to improve their health.

Children’s Colorado promotes a healthy lifestyle by educating on the five components of Healthy Hospital and offers many opportunities to make healthy choices within the hospital.

The five components of our Healthy Hospital Initiative

  1. Nutrition

    At Children’s Colorado, we take nutrition seriously. Good nutrition comes from making healthy choices and eating a variety of foods, including fresh vegetables and fruit. We are committed to offering healthy options and a wide variety of foods to our patients, team members and visitors, as well as providing simple labeling and nutrition information to help guide healthy choices. A stoplight system of green, red and yellow stickers helps customers identify healthy foods in the Fresh Marketplace cafeteria.

    Healthier Beverage Initiative

    All Children’s Colorado locations are sugar-sweetened beverage-free. This has been implemented for:

    • Food services (cafeterias and inpatient menus)
    • Vending machines and self-serve markets
    • Nourishment rooms (on inpatient units)

    What are sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs)?

    Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) are drinks that have added sugar or other sweeteners. They include:

    • Carbonated drinks with added sugars (soda/pop)
    • Fruit drinks
    • Sports drinks
    • Pre-sweetened tea and coffee drinks
    • Energy drinks
    • Any other drinks with added sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, honey or other caloric sweeteners

    Why does the hospital not sell these beverages?

    Children’s Colorado is committed to promoting child health and creating a healthy environment for our patients, families, visitors and team members. We joined other hospitals across the country in removing sugary drinks and adding healthier drink choices at our hospital. Liquid sugar, like that in soda and sports drinks, is the largest source of added sugars in the American diet. Growing evidence shows that consuming too much sugar over time can cause serious health problems, including cavities, obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. While we respect personal choice, selling sugary drinks at our locations does not support our mission and vision.

    What type of drinks does Children’s Colorado sell and/or provide now?

    • Water (filtered tap, unsweetened, naturally flavored, seltzer)
    • 100% fruit juice (< 8 oz. serving size)
    • 100% vegetable juice
    • Milk and milk alternatives
    • Unsweetened teas and coffees
    • Diet drinks

    Why is Children’s Colorado still selling diet drinks? Aren’t those worse for you?

    There is no conclusive evidence that low-calorie or artificial sweeteners have harmful impacts on human health (according to the National Institute of Health, Food and Drug Administration, American Dietetic Association). The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also has no formal recommendations on the use of artificial sweeteners for children. Based on that evidence, we will still offer diet drinks.

    Are there any exceptions to the policy?

    • Anyone can bring their own non-alcoholic drinks onsite, including sugar-sweetened drinks.
    • A small selection of sugary-sweetened drinks will still be available through room service for patients. These drinks are available when a parent asks for them or when the care team recommends them.
    • Milk shakes and smoothies will still be on the patient menu under desserts.
    • Low-fat and/or regular flavored milks and milk alternatives will stay on the inpatient menus.

    What about personal choice?

    At Children’s Colorado, we value personal choice. Patients, families, visitors and team members can still bring their own non-alcoholic drinks, including sugary drinks, to our buildings. However, to align with our mission and vision, we will no longer sell these products.

    Where can I get more information?

  2. Physical activity

    There are increasing opportunities for physical activity at each Children’s Colorado location. Signage promotes stair usage, fitness experts lead wellness walks, staff lead yoga classes and employees have a gym all their own in the lower level of Children’s Colorado on Anschutz Medical Campus. The Anschutz Health and Wellness Center also offers patients’ families a place to exercise while their child is in the hospital, and the Healthy Roots Garden offers a great space to be active.

    Passes for the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center can be purchased for daily, weekly or monthly use.

  3. Emotional, mental and spiritual resiliency

    At Children’s Colorado, we believe that we must nurture our minds and hearts – because how we think and feel can affect our health just as much as physical ailments. That’s why our hospital chaplains are always available across all our locations to help with your spiritual and emotional needs. The Healthy Hospital initiative also aims at destigmatizing mental health and providing support for patients and those in the community.

    Destigmatizing mental health

    To do so, the Pediatric Mental Health Institute at Children’s Colorado provides resources and information to help providers, parents and community members recognize signs that a youth may be in mental health crisis. The department also provides access to Youth Mental Health First Aid, an 8-hour evidence-based certification offered across Colorado.

    The adult Mental Health First Aid course is appropriate for anyone 18 years and older who wants to learn how to help a person who may be experiencing a mental health related crisis or problem. Topics covered include anxiety, depression, psychosis and addictions. We also offer a comprehensive Mental Health First Aid in the Workplace course for employees, as part of our employee wellness offerings.

    Supporting emotional and mental health the Anschutz Medical Campus

    For patients on the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, you can access:

    • The Healthy Roots Garden to enjoy a holistic, healing environment
    • A labyrinth to help guide you when you need direction
    • Free yoga at Seacrest Studios to help patients, families and visitors find inner harmony
    • The peaceful Garden of Hope, complete with a walking maze
  4. Employee wellness

    Team members at Children’s Colorado must take care of ourselves so we can take care of others. The hospital fully supports employees’ efforts to become and remain healthy.

    Human Resources offers incentives to employees who commit to healthy lifestyles, and the hospital frequently shares success stories of employees who have overcome health challenges. Our Healthy Hospital efforts aim to provide team members with a supportive and healthy workplace environment so that we can in turn be supportive and resilient for the patients and families we serve.

  5. Sustainability

    It’s important to keep the earth healthy, too – and Children’s Colorado is dedicated to a sustainable future. We try to reduce our impact on the local and global environment by composting, recycling and buying local when available. We also commit to promoting the health of children and the community through socially responsible environmental improvements and cost-effective practices.

    In January 2017, Children’s Colorado became a member of the national non-profit organization Practice Greenhealth, which provides resources, tools and guidance to healthcare organizations that have made a commitment to sustainable, environmentally preferable practices. By adopting more sustainable practices, we believe we can better protect the health of our patients, team members, the communities we serve and the environment.

Colorado Healthy Hospital Compact

In November 2014, Children’s Colorado signed the Colorado Healthy Hospital Compact, an agreement by hospitals around the state who share a mission to protect and promote the health of hospital patients and their families, visitors and staff. Compact Partner Hospitals will lead by example as they implement measures designed to improve the quality of their nutrition environments.

In so doing, hospitals are working to develop a culture of wellness and contributing to previous Governor of Colorado John Hickenlooper’s goal of making ours "the healthiest state." As Partners to the Compact, hospitals will gain access to a growing network of peer hospitals that are connected to the latest best practices and innovations in the national healthy hospital movement.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) supports the Compact through staffing and technical assistance to encourage healthy food and beverage environments in Colorado hospitals that benefit patients and their families, visitors and staff.

In December 2016, Children’s Colorado became the first hospital in the state to attain Platinum Status by committing to program standards set by the Colorado Healthy Hospital Compact. By making numerous improvements in the nutrition environment, we earned the highest recognition for our healthy environment.

Since joining the Compact, we have:

  • Implemented a more health-focused cafeteria menu
  • Created healthier kids’ menu options
  • Decreased the number of unhealthy snacks and beverages
  • Revised our room service menus
  • Implemented a stoplight system of green, red and yellow labels with clear, easy-to-read nutritional information to help customers identify healthier food options

Children’s Colorado implemented other initiatives to achieve Platinum Status, including:

  • Removed all sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Increased the availability of healthier ("green") pre-packaged or snack foods to 40% of available items
  • Increased the cost of some unhealthy food and beverages and decreased the cost of healthy items to encourage healthier food purchases
  • Promoted and discounted only food and beverages that are "green" or meet "healthier" standards
  • Added electronic menu boards in our cafeterias with nutritional information listed for our daily offerings

Healthy Roots Garden

Children’s Colorado has a 3,000-sq.-ft. Healthy Roots Community Garden, located at the southeast corner of the hospital on the Anschutz Medical Campus. This sustainable garden enables the hospital to grow and harvest a wide range of fresh produce, including greens, tomatoes, carrots, pumpkins, green beans, peppers, beets and a variety of berries. The produce and the garden itself will be used to:

  • Provide an ongoing source of healthy produce to promote food security
  • Provide produce for small farm stands to address the limited access to healthy foods surrounding the Anschutz Medical Campus
  • Allow for expanded, hands-on nutrition education and healthy eating/obesity prevention programs
  • Enable the hospital to launch a food prescription program and food pharmacy
  • Educate individuals and the community on ways to be good environmental stewards

Members of the community will have the opportunity to gather in a holistic, healing environment to experience naturally grown and harvested, nutritious fruits and vegetables while developing an appreciation for healthy lifestyles, environmental stewardship and capitalizing on wellness-based education.

Food Security Council Roadmap to End Child Hunger

In Colorado, one in six households with children do not have reliable access to food. Food is medicine and children need access to healthy, nutritious foods so they can grow, learn and thrive. In 2017, team members from the Child Health Advocacy Institute, Government Affairs, Human Resources, Clinical Nutrition and General Pediatrics, came together to form the Children’s Colorado Food Security Council (FSC). Its goal is by 2023, to increase access to timely, nutritious, and affordable food with the goal of improving food security and diet quality for 90% of Colorado’s households with children.

Through hospital-based programming, external partnerships and advocacy, we are collaborating to make this vision a reality for families seeking care here at Children’s Colorado and those in communities across the state. We are excited to share with you the work and accomplishments of the FSC in the past year.

Healthy Hospital Initiative resources