Fast food served in hospitals? Survey says "Yes"

January 12, 2007

Most people go to the hospital to get healthy. That's not the case lately when people make a stop at the cafeteria. More and more, hospital cafeterias are serving fast food for patients, visitors, and staff. A recent study sought to determine the prevalence and type of brand name fast food (BNFF) in academic-affiliated hospitals. The study used medical students to report on fast food franchises at the teaching hospitals through which they rotate.

Most people go to the hospital to get healthy. That's not the case lately when people make a stop at the cafeteria. More and more, hospital cafeterias are serving fast food for patients, visitors, and staff. A recent study sought to determine the prevalence and type of brand name fast food (BNFF) in academic-affiliated hospitals. The study used medical students to report on fast food franchises at the teaching hospitals through which they rotate.

Students from all allopathic medical schools in the United States (including Puerto Rico) were surveyed. Respondents were obtained from active members of the American Medical Student Association, and through contacting schools for student representatives. One student at each medical school was instructed to list up to five of their main teaching hospitals/medical centers using a Web-based survey. For each, they identified which, if any, BNFF was sold on the hospital campus. This included franchise fast food served at a chain restaurant or in other venues, such as snack bars and cafeterias. Data were collected from January through October of 2005.

Survey responses were received from a student at 113 of 125 medical schools and represented 233 affiliated hospitals/medical centers. Ninety-eight of the 233 hospitals (42%) had at least one BNFF served on campus. There were a total of 163 occurrences of BNFF served on hospital grounds, because many hospitals had more than one type. One hundred thirty five hospitals (58%) had no BNFF establishments on campus; 65 (28%) hospitals had one BNFF, whereas 15 (6%) had two on their campus, 10 (4%) had three, five (2%) had four, and three (1%) hospitals had more than four BNFF types on their grounds. When looking at the prevalence by medical school, 71/113 (63%) of medical schools had at least one affiliated teaching hospital/medical center that served BNFF.