WASHINGTON—A new report reveals the most hazardous hospital food environments in the United States as well as hospitals that provide healthful meals that can prevent and even reverse chronic disease. Through state open records laws, experts with the Physicians Committee—a nonprofit of 12,000 doctors—obtained patient menus from 24 hospitals and analyzed the menus for the new report. The Physicians Committee also recently obtained a Chick-fil-A contract with the University of Mississippi Medical Center, a McDonald’s contract with Broward General Medical Center in Florida, and a heavily redacted Wendy’s contract from Wexner Medical Center in Ohio.
The University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Miss. and others that host fast-food restaurants earned lower scores in the 2016 report. The Chick-fil-A contract with the University of Mississippi Medical Center asks the medical center to “make every reasonable effort to increase the sales and business and maximize the Gross Receipts.” This means the hospital is promoting fried chicken and other foods tied to serious chronic diseases including heart disease and diabetes.
“Hospitals that are fast food free and instead have rooftop gardens earn the highest scores,” says Karen Smith, R.D., senior dietitian for the Physicians committee. “Hospital gardens provide fresh vegetables for hot soup and other plant-based patient meals that can prevent or reverse diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.”
Hospitals earning the highest Patient Food Scores include Stony Brook University Hospital, which has a rooftop garden, Aspen Valley Hospital in Aspen, Colo., C.S. Mott children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, N.Y.
All of the U.S. hospitals that host Chick-fil-As—including four in Texas—are targeted with a hard-hitting advertising campaign scheduled to start Jan. 25. The billboards, street kiosks, and other advertisements mock the Chick-fil-A advertising campaign with a photograph of three doctors in white coats holding signs saying “Eat More Chickpeas.” The public is encouraged to “Ask your local hospital to go #FastFoodFree!” A website, www.EatMoreChickpeas.org, lists Twitter handles and other contact information for hospitals that host Chick-fil-As. Large bus shelter ads are placed near Chick-fil-A headquarters in Atlanta.
“Many of the hospitals that host Chick-fil-As are in states with high rates of diet-related diseases, making hospitals part of the overall toxic food environment,” says Angie Eakin, M.D., M.S., one of the doctors who appears in the advertisements. “Hospitals should be fast-food- free, and patients should eat more chickpeas, vegetables, fruits, and other foods that can promote healing and prevent disease.”
Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta has a “percentage rent” agreement with McDonald’s, meaning the more artery-clogging burgers and shakes sold to patients, the more money the hospital makes. When Grady’s McDonald’s contract expires in June 2016, it should consider expanding the healthful options in its cafeteria.
Several hospitals named in the Physicians Committee’s previous reports have recently improved their food environments by closing McDonald’s restaurants. These include Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Texas, Memorial Regional Hospital in Florida, Riley Children’s Hospital in Indiana and the Cleveland Clinic. Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minnesota has announced it will soon close its McDonald’s, ending its contract early.
For the 2016 report on hospital food environments, Physicians Committee surveyed 262 hospitals including the 50 largest public hospitals and at least one hospital in every state.
For a copy of the full report or an interview with Dr. Eakin or Karen Smith, R.D., please contact Jeanne McVey at 202-527-7316 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research and medical training.