Sodium Lowered 11.9%!
The S2AY Rural Health Network is working in cooperation with Steuben County Public Health in a pilot project to lower sodium consumption in the region. This particular grant focuses on senior meals and hospitals as sites where a large number of meals are served, with a goal of reducing sodium in meals by 30% over a three year period, or roughly 10% per year. At the conclusion of the first year, sodium reduction from the baseline was reduced by almost 12%.
Steuben County Public Health Director Vicki Fuerst notes that "Cerebrovascular disease, or stroke, is higher in Steuben County than in the State as a whole, so we are focusing on reducing hypertension, and also on reducing sodium consumption as a way to reduce both hypertension and stroke in the future." In the first year of the project, Steuben County Public Health included Ira Davenport Hospital (and its partner hospitals in Elmira (Arnot Ogden and St. Joseph's hospitals), along with the senior meals programs in Steuben and Yates Counties. As they move into the second year, they are adding the hospitals and senior meal programs in Schuyler, Seneca and Yates Counties, some of their partner counties through the S2AY Rural Health Network.
Sometimes referred to as "stealth health," sodium is being reduced in a portion of the meals, or in some cases, all of the meals, without advertising the change. Changes are made by such methods as using alternative, lower-sodium ingredients, substituting other herbs or spices for salt, using more fresh whole foods as opposed to prepared foods, and similar methods. People mostly don't notice the change, but are eating healthier foods.
According to Project Manager JoAnne Taylor and Registered Dietician, Wilma Stewart, the key is having a food service manager and cooking staff who recognize the health effects that a high sodium diet has on people. "Once people understand that they can either detract from someone's health or improve someone's health simply by changing the amount of salt in their diet, they can get very creative and produce foods that still taste great, are cost effective, and have positive health effects," notes Taylor.