Fast Food Restaurant In Kids Hospital

A United States research, published in Dec 2006’s issue of Pediatrics, suggested that having fast-food restaurants in children’s hospitals may encourage young patients’ families to eat fast food and to think that it is relatively healthy.

Parents of children who received outpatient treatment at Children’s Memorial were much more likely to buy McDonald’s food on the day their youngsters were treated than parents of children treated at Chicago-area hospitals without McDonald’s.

Parents of children treated at Children’s Memorial also were twice as likely to rate McDonald’s food as a relatively healthy choice than those whose children were treated elsewhere.

In view of the prevailing concerns about the childhood obesity, this may be a troubling phenomenon. About 17 percent of US children are considered as obese. Heavy consumption of calorie-laden, fatty fast food is quoted as one of the possible causes.

Obesity is a risk factor for health problems such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke, high blood cholesterol, etc., which will ultimately lead to development of heart disease.

Data collected showed that at least 59 of the United States’ 250 children’s hospitals have fast-food restaurants. This may give 2 different messages: as health-care profession promoting health and saying obesity is a huge medical problem…, and then implicitly encouraging it.

The researchers surveyed 386 parents and other adults leaving 3 Chicago-area hospitals after their children had outpatient visits. They are Children’s Memorial; Ronald McDonald Children’s Hospital in Maywood, which use McDonald’s branding but has no McDonald’s restaurant; and the University of Chicago’s children hospital, which has no McDonald’s restaurant or branding on site.

The study found that 56 percent of participants at Children’s Memorial had fast food on the survey day, compared with 29 percent at Ronald McDonald Children’s Hospital and 33 percent at the University of Chicago Hospital. Most of those at all 3 hospitals who had fast food that day chose McDonald’s.

Nevertheless, some health professionals do feel that occasional use of fast food to treat sick children going through difficult treatment is not really a big issue. If one chooses wisely, fast food needs not be an unhealthy choice, according to a dietitian.

As what a dietitian suggests, one should keep portion sizes small and limit eating hamburgers to only once a week. A hamburger and orange juice give 350 kcal and 10g of fat, of which 3g is made up of saturated fat.

2 years ago, doctors at Cleveland Clinic, known for heart disease research tried to remove McDonald’s from the hospital. Thought the restaurant is still there, it began offering healthy alternatives to Big Macs and French fries after discussion with clinic officials.

It is more important for doctors and nurses to continue to talk to parents about what constitutes a healthy diet for kids, and to teach the kids to choose healthier options when eating out.

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About The Author, Ng Peng Hock