Thursday, December 21, 2006

Children's Hospitals Serving up Big Macs and Fries

tidbits that tantalize

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Children's Generic Hospital - 2AM

A young girl's weary mother watches as her daughter tosses and turns, unable to find a position that relieves her pain and allows her to sleep. She checks her watch, wonders where the on-call resident is, what's taking so long...

Finally, a bedraggled young physician steps into the room and greets her. He moves quickly to the bed and opens a large white sack. "Sorry about the delay. It seems everyone got the munchies all at the same time. But, this should do the trick." He clears the bedside table of miscellaneous medical nuisances and plops down a couple of Big Macs, Super Size Fries and a chocolate milkshake. The young girl sits up, smiles and dives in to the Big Mac. The mother puts a thankful hand on the doctor's shoulder, a hint of a tear in her eyes. "Thank you, doctor. She looks better already."

Is this the future of medicine? Well, no - unfortunately, this is the present.

A 2002-03 survey found that 30% of the 200 pediatric programs queried had fast-food restaurants within their hospitals. It would seem to be a less than healthy association, in light of the estimated 17% obesity rate among the nation's children. But, possibly even more significant, is the message the association sends to parents and their children about the inclusion of fast food in diets on a continuing basis.

As a part of the survey, researchers asked parents at several facilities about their perceptions of fast food. The results suggest that healthy-by-association appears to know few limitations. Parents whose children were treated at hospitals with a fast-food restaurant were twice as likely to rate McDonald's food as healthy than parents whose children were treated at facilities without Big Macs on the menu. Hmm... Maybe you really do deserve a break today.

Word has leaked of a pilot program being studied under tight security at a children's hospital in New York. Hospital beds are being equipped with cutting edge nurse call systems that will respond to requests with the comforting, "Welcome to McDonalds, how may I help you?" It is believed the familiar greeting eases tension for young patients while also stimulating the digestive enzymes necessary for absorption of nutrients. Should the call be medically related the McDonalds staff will alert their team manager.

To learn more about the impact of obesity on children, see this from KidsHealth.


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