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OM in the News: Where to Locate the Next McDonalds–in Your Hospital?

April 20, 2012

We all know that hospitals can be dangerous places to spend a few nights. Here are just a few statistics on annual deaths in US hospitals due to  preventable errors (as cited from a variety of studies): 44,000-98,000 (Institute of Medicine, 1999); 195,000 (Health Grades, 2004); 180,000 Medicare patients (US Department of Health, 2008); and 99,000 (AHRQ, 2009).  But what we would not expect as a reason for our demise to be hospital food. Maybe that is why a group of 1,900 doctors is starting a move to rid  hospitals of our favorite fast food chain, McDonald’s,  that has found a location strategy in a crowded market.

It turns out that 22 hospitals currently have contracts with the fast food industry leader, reports MarketWatch (April 10,2012), 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,” says the  former president of the American Diabetes Association  “The practice earns McDonald’s an undeserved association with healthfulness among parents and children alike.”

A  study in the  Pediatrics demonstrated that allowing a McDonald’s  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, the group just sent a letter to the 22 hospital administrators last week,  noting: “It’s no surprise that McDonald’s sites stores in hospitals. For decades, McDonald’s has attempted to pose itself as part of the solution.”

In 2009, Dallas’ Parkland Health & Hospital System replaced a McDonald’s with a smaller chain offering healthier food. McDonald’s had been the only chain restaurant at the hospital for 20 years.

Discussion questions:

1. Do your students think locating McDonald’s in hospitals is an ethical issue?

2. Into what other types of facilities has the firm expanded?

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