At over two dozen hospitals across the country, hospital patients can grab a Big Mac as they wait for their test results. Hospitals and fast food chains are strange bedfellows indeed, as more than 20 percent of all national healthcare expenditures is spent managing obesity-related health problems. Now, 2000 health professionals have backed a petition urging the two dozen hospitals that are home to a McDonald's to evict the restaurants from the property.
The petition was created by Corporate Accountability International, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization, and calls for hospitals to stop nurturing a food environment that endorses unhealthy eating. By allowing fast-food restaurants inside a hospital, you're helping them sustain a façade that eating there is not a hazard your health, according to the petition.
In your role as a local health leader, you have allowed McDonald's -- a corporation that has disregarded public health in the name of profits -- to operate within an environment devoted to helping our children get well, the organization wrote in the petition Your hospital is being used as part of McDonald's comprehensive marketing strategy, a strategy that is clearly inconsistent with your goals as a health institution.
Fast food restaurants play a critical role in the obesity epidemic, according to a study by the University of Michigan's School of Public Health. Countries that have more fast food restaurants have a higher obesity rate.
Over 35 percent of adults in the U.S. older than 20 years old are obese. In 1985, no state had an obesity rate higher than 14 percent. By 2010, no state had an obesity rate lower than 20 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Medical costs associated with obesity accounts for $190 billion annually.
The rising obesity rate makes it imperative that hospitals stop enabling fast-food restaurants to coopt the health community and to deflect blame for the epidemic of disease that it has helped drive, and to pose itself as part of the solution, Corporate Accountability International wrote in the petition.
McDonald's maintains that it offers food to suit any diet, and says it is not to blame for people's poor choices.
Today, we offer more variety than ever in our menu and we trust that our customers will make the appropriate choices for them, their families and lifestyles, Danya Proud, spokesperson for McDonald's, told NPR.
Getting rid of the fast-food chain might be difficult, Bill Barum, director of hospitality and retail services for the Cleveland Clinic, an Ohio hospital that houses a McDonald's, told NPR. The restaurants are usually under contracts that are difficult to break.
Although his hospital is aware of the petition, Edwin O'Dell, spokesman for Jackson Health System in Miami, Fla. said his hospital will not terminate the existing contract it has with McDonald's.
McDonalds is a part of Jackson Memorials Hospital's retail campus which includes several other restaurants, he said. The contracts at each of these facilities are reviewed at the end of each contract period. Jackson is one the largest medical facilities and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We are committed to providing our visitors and employees with a variety of food options.
McDonald's isn't the only fast-food giant to set up shop in hospitals -- Subway, Pizza Hut and Chick-fil-A have contracts with hospitals as well. Some hospitals even have multiple fast food restaurants.
The Texas Children's Hospital Complex was crowned the worst hospital food environment by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in 2011. The hospital contains four fast-food restaurants including a McDonald's and a Chick-fil-A. The cafeteria food is unhealthy as well, according to a PCRM report.
The hospital's cafeteria menu is dominated by heart-unfriendly, high-fat foods, including a fried-chicken bar, the report said. Patient food features high-fat, high-cholesterol items such as chicken Florentine and grilled hamburgers.
The top five worst hospital food environments all involved at least one fast-food restaurant.