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Over the last year, a network of more than 1,900 health professionals, including some of the nation’s top pediatricians, cardiologists, and child psychologists, has called on McDonald’s to stop marketing junk food to kids.
As part of the initiative, leading doctors are joining Corporate Accountability International in calling on the administrators of the nation’s leading health institutions to remove McDonald’s franchises from their premises. Twenty-two hospitals currently have contracts with the fast food industry leader, including the Cleveland Clinic and Children’s Memorial Hospital of Chicago.
“Kids are being treated for diet-related conditions like diabetes on one floor in the hospital and given the wrong message by being offered the world’s most recognized junk food brand on another floor in the hospital,” said Dr. Francine Kaufman, former president of the American Diabetes Association and professor emeritus of pediatrics and communications at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, one of the hospitals with a McDonald’s. “The practice earns McDonald’s an undeserved association with healthfulness among parents and children alike…and it should be curtailed.”
A 2006 study in the academic journal Pediatrics demonstrated that allowing a McDonald’s store to operate inside a hospital affects hospital guests’ consumption on the day of their visit, and boosts the perception of the “healthfulness” of McDonald’s food.
To address this concern and call for action, the initiative sent a letter to 22 hospital administrators last week. The letter further notes: “It’s no surprise that McDonald’s sites stores in hospitals. After all, for decades, McDonald’s has attempted to co-opt the health community, to deflect blame for the epidemic of disease that it has helped drive, and to pose itself as part of the solution.”
It also discusses the powerful message administrators could send in taking action, just as others have before them. For example, in 2009, Parkland Health & Hospital System in Dallas, Texas succeeded in replacing a McDonald’s with a smaller chain offering healthier food. McDonald’s had been the only chain restaurant at the hospital for 20 years. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Vanderbilt Medical Center have also ended their contracts with McDonald’s in recent years.
“Simply put, the less kids are exposed to fast food and its marketing, the less likely they are to suffer from diet-related conditions like type 2 diabetes,” said Sara Deon, International’s Value campaign director and the letter’s principle signatory. “McDonald’s has a long history of putting a healthy label on an inherently unhealthy brand.
It has used healthcare providers and institutions to help promote this image for decades. Today, administrators have the opportunity to provide a healthier food environment for the children and families they care for.”