Should hospitals be offering its visitors access to triple-decker burgers and candy-topped shakes? The seemingly odd practice of hospitals leasing space to fast-food franchises is coming under fire yet again: In the newest debate, a group of doctors is targeting a Macon, Georgia hospital for housing a McDonald’s inside its Navicent Health Medical Center.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit advocacy group, has purchased ad space in the surrounding Macon neighborhood proclaiming “Does Greasy Chicken Feed Disease? Ask your local hospital to go #FastFoodFree!” and “Your heart’s not loving those cheeseburgers,” the latter a nod, of course, to McD’s famous “I’m Lovin’ It” campaign. With the six-foot-tall ads, the group hopes to force the hospital board into revisiting the franchise’s lease, which expires in 2019. “Artery-clogging cheeseburgers and chicken have no place inside a hospital,” Karen Smith, R.D., said in a press release.
It’s a familiar crusade for PCRM. In 2015, the group released a series of studies condemning the relationship between medical centers and chains, noting that in many locations, the hospital benefits financially from robust sales of unhealthy fast food. In one Houston hospital, “the monthly rent McDonald’s pays to the hospital increases based on food sales,” per a 2015 finding. According to PCRM’s 2016 report, another hospital in Mississippi holds a contract with Chick-fil-A that promises to “make every reasonable effort to increase the sales and business” Per PCRM’s number, Chick-fil-A has locations inside 20 hospitals; McDonald’s has 13.
At Navicent Health, a hospital representative responded to the ad stunt, telling 41NBC the Medical Center “provides a number of dining options for the convenience of our guests, including a number of cafeterias and cafes offering a variety of affordable, locally sourced menu options.” Until April of this year, the medical campus was home to a Chick-fil-A franchise; its lease was terminated to make way for an expansion of the children’s hospital.