The presence of a McDonald’s in a hospital marketed as a heart institute may seem incongruous. An advocacy group leading a campaign against McDonald’s marketing to children thinks it’s outrageous. Corporate Accountability International has sent a letter to hospitals hosting McDonald’s outlets urging them to evict the fast food giant from the premises.
Getting rid of McDonald’s
Since 2005, McDonald’s has nine fewer outlets in U.S. hospitals, yet Big Macs are still available in 27 institutions. The campaign to quell McDonald’s marketing targeted toward children has been endorsed by nearly 2,000 health care professionals. Corporate Accountability International asked the hospitals to “stop fostering a food environment that promotes harm, not health.” But kicking McDonald’s to the curb may be easier said than done, based on recent history.
Stuck with long-term contracts
At many institutions long-term contracts, written before the recent culture of wellness took hold in U.S. hospitals, ensure that Ronald McDonald will endure. Physicians at the Cleveland Clinic tried to get rid of their McDonald’s in 2005, but even though one of the doctors that led the charge is now the CEO, McDonald’s is still there.
NPR reports that another hospital CEO, John Bluford of Truman Medical Centers in Kansas City, urged hospitals to eliminate unhealthy food last year when he was chair of the American Hospital Association. The problem can be summarized by the fact that Bluford’s own hospital signed a 25-year contract with McDonald’s in 1992.
Fast hospital food
McDonald’s isn’t the only fast food outlet doing business in U.S. Hospitals. After conducting a survey of hospital food at 100 institutions in 2011, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine found that some hospitals have up to five different fast food outlets, including Chick-fil-A, Starbucks, Subway and Pizza Hut, which made a recent splash introducing a pizza crust stuffed with hot dogs.
According to the CRM, the food served to patients and in many hospital cafeterias can be just as bad. The survey found that some menus feature high-fat, high-cholesterol foods such as meatball sandwiches and roasted pork loin. Some hospitals also offer hot dogs, bacon, and other processed meats linked to increased risk of colorectal cancer by the American Institute for Cancer Research.
Food to keep the beds full
The CRM identified the worst hospital food environment in the U.S. at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital/Texas Heart Institute/Texas Children’s Hospital Complex in
Houston, Texas. St. Luke’s, renowned for cardiovascular surgery, hosts four fast food outlets, including McDonald’s and a Chick-fil-A. St. The hospital’s cafeteria menu is loaded with high-fat foods, including a fried-chicken bar. Patients are served high-fat, high-cholesterol items such as chicken Florentine and grilled hamburgers.
Hospital administrators should know more than anyone that healthy eating habits play a key role in preventing chronic illness. It’s common knowledge now that low-fat, plant-based diets rich in fruits and vegetables provide nutritional advantages and reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Perhaps such healthful eating habits would be bad for business.