Saturday, January 10, 2015

Do they need to get over themselves?

One of the things I enjoy about Australians is the tendency for straight talk, but I wonder if the Premier of Victoria will come to have second thoughts about a recent comment concerning the availability of fast food in the state's children's hospitals.  Here's the issue:

A group of people feel strongly that allowing McDonald's to have a franchise in the lobby of children's hospitals is not appropriate.  As noted in a story by Julia Medew in the The Age:

Public health experts are calling for the new Monash Children's Hospital to exclude fast food outlets and say the Royal Children's Hospital should dump its contract with McDonald's because it is creating a "healthy halo effect" that sends the wrong message to families.

With one in four children overweight or obese, Melbourne University public health professor Rob Moodie said Australia's leading paediatric hospitals should not be supporting multinational fast food chains like McDonald's that targeted children.

"It's hard enough to encourage people to eat healthy foods at the moment. We don't need the branding of some of Australia's most prestigious hospitals lending their support to something that is fundamentally promoting a poor diet. There's a real clash of purpose there."

Premier Daniel Andrews' response to this was offered in Medew's next story:

"I'm also a parent and frankly the notion that it is somehow a bad thing to give a sick child a treat, to give a sibling of a sick child a visit to McDonald's, that is just nonsense and we'll have none of it, none of it at all," he said.  

The premier added that "people who would like to tell parents every single thing they ought do and not do" was "nanny statism" that undermined the power of other advice governments give parents.  

"The McDonald's is here to stay in this health service as part of a balanced offering and that's exactly the outcome we'll achieve at Monash Children's as well," he said.

"There will be no prohibition as some would like and frankly, they need to get over themselves." 

The response:

Professor Moodie and Obesity Policy Coalition head Jane Martin, who both spoke out about the issue last month, said Mr Andrews had missed the point.

"It's not really about whether children should be having these treats or not, it's about whether a children's hospital should be seen to be endorsing the kind of food that McDonald's basically sells. They basically sell nuggets and fries," Ms Martin said.

"Hospitals are dealing with a huge burden of diet-related disease ... This is our new smoking."

The whole issue has been brought into the public consciousness worldwide by a coalition called Value [the] Meal Campaign organized in great measure by Corporate Accountability International.  It seeks "to restrict predatory junk food marketing to children" and block such restaurants in children's hospitals and in schools.

What's your take on this issue?  Please offer comments below.


Mitch said...

I'd ban McD's and all the rest. I also would not allow hospitals to sell the various forms of sugar water (soda, "energy" drinks and the like) either. Not allowing people to smoke in certain areas or sell cigarettes in certain locations is "nanny statism" as well.

Ilene said...

When I see a salad for .99 it might be realistic to compare but with salads running $8.00 and a .99 cheeseburger, its hard to have the discussion.

Anonymous said...

Premier Daniel Andrews should have to eat at McD's 3x a day for 1 year. Then he has to pay for all the problems that come from that. Make his family do the same too. Let them put McD's across the street. All this is just the hospital wanting to feed off the $$$ created by the sick people who eat McDonalds'.

What are they teaching parents/kids? That food is a reward. We're not animals. Food is FUEL.

pheski said...

Seems to me that a health care organization, be it an office or a tertiary care center, has both a right and (more importantly) an obligation to provide services that enhance health and avoid services that harm patients. It seems obvious that they would not sell cigarettes. They wouldn't provide high sodium food to the patient in CHF. They wouldn't provide a tanning salon. The PT department wouldn't offer anabolic steroids to improve strength and shorten length of stay.

They should provide food choices that are healthy and appropriate.

'Nanny statism' could be invoked if they had a policy forbidding patients and families to purchase fast food elsewhere as a condition of care, or forbidding patients or families from brining it on campus.

Tom DeSimone said...

Reminds me of the book, Death of Common Sense. We try to make up for every human deficiency, in this case, parents' inability to properly deal with kids' dietary balance, by increasing the control and regulation of our lives. Fearful of where this all will lead. PM is correct.

Brad F said...

I think this quote from yesterdays WaPo gets at it:

"Dangling salads, especially now that calorie counts are pasted all over fast food menus, undermines the essence of what the fast food world offers Americans. People visit cheap burger chains for a respite from their (hopefully) healthier dietary regimen, not yet another reminder from their conscience that they could be eating something much healthier. Sonic seems to understand that. McDonald's? Not so much."


Pat said...

This reminds me of the international code of marketing in Baby Friendly USA designation 10 steps. Exclusive breast-feeding is encouraged and designated hospitals work to support and enable moms to do that. If an educated mother's personal choice is formula that is certainly allowed, but the hospitals don't advertise, promote use of, or market infant formula. They no longer send home bags of infant formula at discharge and people have to go to the grocery to get it. It's hospital should talk to McDonald's about moving off hospital property in locating just down the street! Meanwhile the hospital should think about having HEALTHY special treat options in the cafeteria for the sick children or siblings.

Fred said...

Don't they have a cafeteria where they can serve good food?

Peter Elias said...

From G+:

Sure. Let's focus on giving everyone whatever they want. Put antibiotics in vending machines. Narcotics in bowls on the counters alongside the mints and business cards. Customer names the price.


Mary Freer ‏@FreerMary said...

From Twitter:

1.macdonalds is not a treat. 2.public Hosp not the place for fast food 3. Well done @juliamedew

Catherine Preston Connolly said...

From Facebook:

When I was 4-5 years old my brother was an in-patient at Childrens Children's Hospital aof Philadelphia nad I vividly remember the McDonalds in the lobby there at the time. Don't know if it is still there. Going there was one of the few happy moments for me in what was otherwise a really confusing and stressful time for our whole family. I'm not a fan of McDonald's in general but I will say that between Ronald McDonald House and outlets in children's hospitals, they do provide real support to families of ill children.

Marie Bismark ‏@mbismark said...

From Twitter:

I'm appalled that @DanielAndrewsMP supports exposing sick kids to a leading health hazard.

Derek S. Wheeler ‏@derek6wheeler said...

From Twitter:

Fast food doesn't belong in a hospital setting!

Bob said...

No question the professionals are right and the conservative politician is wrong. Just no question.

Barry Carol said...

A couple of years ago when a close relative was an inpatient at one of Philadelphia’s leading academic medical center, my wife and I ate a number of meals in the hospital’s cafeteria. I noticed that there were plenty of unhealthy choices on the menu including burgers and fries, hot dogs, pizza, soda, ice cream, cake, candy and more. Moreover, I saw lots of people choosing to eat such unhealthy food including numerous hospital employees. I believe in freedom of choice and personal responsibility and I have little patience for a nanny state trying to tell me what’s good for me and to limit my choices. I say let McDonald’s stay. It’s possible to find healthy choices at McDonald’s and it’s probably easy to find unhealthy choices in the hospital’s cafeteria.

Kashif Sheikh said...

I had a similar debate regarding the McDonald's at St. Luke's in Houston, a facility that also houses the Texas Heart Institute and Texas Children's. That particular facility donates a large portion of profits to the hospital. Management surely posits this financing helps support their patients. That end does not justify the means. Serving nutritional food should be part and parcel of the mission, vision, and values of any hospital. Serving high fat, high sodium meals seems to stand contrary to a physician asking patients within the hospital to avoid these foods. I contrast this with hospitals following the Hospital Healthier Food Initiative, like Children's Hospital of Chicago or Henry Ford. These hospitals demonstrate a holistic approach to patient care, and I believe will thrive in the long run as a result.

nonlocal MD said...

I have a rather different take on the issue. As Barry Carol says, hospital cafeterias themselves are perfectly capable of serving unhealthy food and often do so. What I object to is any 'non-profit' institution allowing itself to be co-opted by another profit-making entity to sell their wares, perhaps under some sort of financial inducement or quid pro quo. One sees this not only at hospitals but also colleges, where Barnes and Noble takes over college bookstores and fast food or other outlets serve food on campus.
Yes, I believe that hospitals have an obligation to serve healthy food, but I also believe both hospitals and colleges should not allow themselves to be walking advertisements for profit-making corporations (Hello, Intuitive Surgical, also). Just say no.

Casey said...

Fast food isn't lovin' and McDonald's doesn't belong in a hospital.