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30 Mar

Should fast-food restaurants be banned from hospitals?

Should fast-food restaurants be banned from hospitals?

Fast-food has been a controversial topic in the US for many years now – from how it contributes to childhood obesity to the various health effects it has on the body (who can forget Morgan Spurlock’s documentary Super Size Me?) to the use of harmful substances and chemicals like “pink slime” or aspartame. With all of the controversy and health concerns, one would think the last place you’d find a fast-food restaurant would be in a hospital. Guess again!

While fast-food restaurants are not in every hospital in the US, some major chains have discreet partnerships within the healthcare market, including McDonalds (18 hospitals), Chick-Fil-A (20 hospitals), and Wendy’s (5 hospitals). Some of McDonald's hospital locations even offer bedside delivery, as well as birthday parties and a special snack menu with items like nachos.

Non-profit organization Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is fighting to ban all fast-food from hospitals, publishing a series of hospital fast-food reports to show just how dire the situation is. In their fifth and most recently published installment, PCRM surveyed more than 200 hospitals, finding that many of the hospitals that were serving fast-food were located in areas with high obesity rates, specifically the South.

A key finding that goes beyond the obvious health concerns is the financial advantage that some hospitals are receiving. PCRM analyzed five different contracts in their most recent study and found that the hospitals are actually incentivized to help the fast-food restaurants sell their products. According to PCRM’s report, the monthly rent of the McDonald’s inside Ben Taub General Hospital in Houston increases based on food sales. So the more Big Macs sold = the more the hospital profits.

Several fast-food restaurants have recently closed in hospitals around the country, including two previously mentioned in PCRM’s fast food reports -- the McDonald’s at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health and the Dairy Queen at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. With this and more hospitals adding fresh fruits and vegetables to their cafeterias, PCRM notes that conditions are improving. One can only hope that hospitals will focus less on partnering with fast-food giants and more on collaborating with their own internal culinary team to improve the nutritional value of their food offerings.

Should fast food restaurants be banned from hospitals or just required to offer a healthier alternative menu?

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