Visitors and patients for years have noted and even cracked uneasy jokes about the McDonald’s restaurant located at the heart of Abbott Northwestern Hospital’s sprawling campus in Minneapolis.
Yes, it’s been a handy option for family and friends needing a quick bite while a loved one is recovering. Or for hardworking staff on their lunch breaks. At the same time, the fast-food behemoth’s bevy of deep-fried, high-calorie offerings has been jarringly at odds with Abbott’s mission. Food sold within a medical center should complement health, not directly contradict the dietary advice many hospitalized patients are given.
So it’s entirely appropriate that Allina Health, Abbott’s parent organization, last week announced that it is discharging this McDonald’s after a 25-year-old business relationship. The restaurant’s lease will end May 31. While the closure is overdue, Allina’s leadership merits praise for including the move as part of a new, systemwide strategy to rid vending machines and food-service areas of unhealthful choices, such as sugary beverages and deep-fried foods.
Health care providers should be leading the charge for better nutrition, especially as concerns continue to mount about the grim toll of the nation’s obesity epidemic. They shouldn’t be purveyors of the type of food or beverages linked with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other serious conditions. Minnesota’s other medical centers have made similar moves. Earlier this year, HealthPartners announced that it would move forcefully to limit sales of sugary drinks at its locations in 2016, building on the pioneering work already done by a system it merged with: Park Nicollet. Fairview Health Services and Essentia Health also have taken aim at sugary drinks.
Allina operates 13 hospitals and over 90 clinics. The system’s size makes this new effort a noteworthy contribution in the fight against obesity. It sends a powerful nutritional message to the thousands of people who pass through Allina locations’ doors every day.
Patients and employees encouraged to develop healthy habits at Allina may make better choices elsewhere. This is a commendable step, one of many needed, to ultimately improve Minnesotans’ health.