Hospitals Struggling to Phase Out Fast Food, Obese Employees

A Texas medical center is refusing to hire overweight workers, while McDonald's stores keep sticking around hospital cafeterias

Last year, the American Hospital Association issued a call to action, recommending that hospitals start creating a "culture of well-being."

Recommendations included improving the health of employees, CEOs, the board of trustees, etc., with steps like nixing unhealthy foods at meetings, vending machines, and cafeterias.

The call to action, however, seems to be a bit more difficult than expected. NPR reports that hospitals are struggling to get rid of unhealthy foods.

For some hospitals, contracts with fast-food joints were written up far before healthy food concerns were an issue. Truman Medical Centers agreed to a 25-year contract with McDonald's back in 1992.

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, however, did shutter their McDonald's after 34 years, only to bring back milkshakes for sick kids. Furthermore, Chick-fil-A just recently opened shop in several hospitals. NPR reports that fast-food outlets may not be healthy, but they are comforting to patients who are undergoing stressful treatments.

On the employee side of the culture of well-being, however, hospitals may be taking it too far. Citizen's Medical Center in Texas is now refusing to hire overweight workers with a body mass index of more than 35.

While officials claim this is so the hospital can promote an image of healthy living, critics have been calling this "blatant discrimination," while mentioning past studies showing that BMI actually underestimates the number of people who are obese.

Perhaps more hospitals should take cues from Kaiser Permanente or Houston's Harris County Hospital, where farmers markets set up shop within facilities so patients (and perhaps employees) can pick up fresh ingredients for dinner (or a lunch salad). Now, if only hospitals would replace those Jell-O cups with fresh fruit.