Monday, January 12, 2015

More on fast food in Melbourne children's hospitals

My post on fast food in children's hospitals received a lot of comments.  Here's the latest chapter from Melbourne, an opinion piece in The Age written by Alessandro Demaio.  He says, in part:

As a medical doctor and as a public health scientist working internationally, I can assure Victorians that there is good scientific evidence to support our concerns. This is not about banning or taking away choices in a nanny state. Excluding a US multinational from selling junk food inside our public hospitals is simply sound health policy. It is about sending a clear and consistent message to the community, and particularly young people, about what is healthy. 

Having a McDonald's embedded in a respected, taxpayer-funded institution like the Royal Children's Hospital does wonders for its brand power. McDonald's spent more than $1billion in 2013 alone on advertising junk food and any parent will tell you how powerful the golden arches are when children see them. There is good research showing that having a McDonald's next to hospital clinics makes people think its food is healthier than it is and that eating it will support the hospital. On a clinical level, it is counter-productive, too.

Boiling the public debate down to reductive rhetoric, Mr Andrews said "people who would like to tell parents every single thing they ought do and not do" is "nanny statism" that undermines legitimate government warnings for parents. 

Mr Andrews has missed the point. This was never about a ban, or creating a "nanny state", or about telling parents what to do. This was and is about a consistent message, defending our world-class public health-care system, and protecting the health of families across our state. It is about having a proper public debate and considering the health of the children in these hospitals, but also the health of the millions of young Victorians increasingly at risk from obesity-related disease. 


jem said...

Better tell the nurses not to be too helpful around the sick kids. Wouldn't want them to learn to be entitled during their stay at the hospital.

Really though, I don't see the big deal with this McDonald's thing. A hospital serves ice cream; I would eat ice cream occasionally regardless. A hospital serves McDonald's; I would eat McDonald's occasionally regardless. I still eat healthy foods most of the time because the hospital's menu has no bearing on my home cooking. I guess it's just easier to shield the public from McDonald's than it is to teach them to steam some broccoli more often, but I dunno. It seems preferable to see someone taught how to make a virtuous decision rather than shield him from having to make the decision in the first place.

Barry Carol said...

I think the name of the game when it comes to unhealthy food that's fun and enjoyable to eat is moderation. Like much else in life.