Regularly consuming fast food, from fried chicken and pizza to burgers and fries, isn’t healthy. Foods that are high in sugar, sodium, saturated fat and cholesterol have been linked with many types of chronic disease, such as diabetes and heart disease.
So one would hope that hospitals wouldn’t be promoting these types of foods, yet many hospitals have fast-food restaurants on their premises. A report from the non-profit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine looks at hospital contracts with fast-food restaurants, focusing on McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Chick-Fil-A. "Chick-fil-A has at least 20 hospital locations, McDonald’s has at least 18, and Wendy’s has at least five," according to the report. A number of other local and national fast food restaurants can also be found on Hospital premises, including Dunkin’ Donuts and Tim Horton’s.
Having a fast food restaurant on the premises not only encourages hospital staff and visitors to eat more junk food, but Physicians Committee found that in some cases, fast food is even delivered to hospital patients. At the Children’s Hospital of Georgia, the contract with McDonald’s includes a provision for “McDelivery.”
There’s debate over whether being in proximity to fast food restaurants increases actual consumption. A 2011 Harvard study found no correlation between living nearer to fast food restaurants and higher rates of obesity. However, a study published last year in the British Medical Journal found that being exposed to fast food restaurants throughout your day—including your time at work and commute—did lead to a higher rate of consumption.
Take-out burgers and other meals loaded up with factory-farmed animal products also have a heavy impact on the environment. Factory farms are a major source of pollution while take-out meals generate a large amount of trash.
Yet, hospitals can play a positive role in promoting healthy eating. Some hospitals are already helping people to eat better, like St. Luke’s University Hospital in Pennsylvania and the Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital in Michigan, which both have programs to grow their own organic produce. The Physicians Committee recommends that more hospitals, especially those that receive public funding, follow this lead and stop promoting junk foods.