Unhealthy Food Served in Children's Hospitals
Published: 2011-12-01 - Updated: 2022-05-27
Author: University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences | Contact: uclahealth.org
Synopsis: Researchers assess food venues at 12 major children's hospitals in California and found there is room for improvement in offerings and practices. The study authors developed a modified version of the Nutrition Environment Measures Scale for Restaurants (NEMS-R) as an assessment tool for rating the food offerings in hospital cafeterias. This measurement system considers pricing, availability of vegetables, nutrition labeling, combo promotions and healthy beverages. Since no one has previously documented the health of food in these hospitals, researchers provided hospital administrators with their scores to encourage improvement.
Food served in children's hospitals rated largely unhealthy - Researchers from UCLA and the RAND Corporation assessed 14 food venues at the state's 12 major children's hospitals and found there was a lot of room for improvement in their offerings and practices.
Given the obesity epidemic among the nation's young, one would hope that children's hospitals would serve as a role model for healthy eating. But hospitals in California fall short, with only 7 percent of entrées classified as "healthy" according to a new study published in Academic Pediatrics.
Researchers from UCLA and the RAND Corporation assessed 14 food venues at the state's 12 major children's hospitals and found there was a lot of room for improvement in their offerings and practices.
"As health professionals, we understand the connection between healthy eating and good health, and our hospitals should be role models in this regard," said Dr. Lenard Lesser, primary investigator and a physician in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program in the Department of Family Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "Unfortunately, the food in many hospitals is no better - and in some cases worse - than what you would find in a fast food restaurant."
The study authors developed a modified version of the Nutrition Environment Measures Scale for Restaurants (NEMS-R) as an assessment tool for rating the food offerings in hospital cafeterias. This measurement system considers pricing, availability of vegetables, nutrition labeling, combo promotions and healthy beverages.
Overall, the average score for the 14 hospital food venues was 19.1, out of a range of 0 (least healthy) to 37 (most healthy). Of the total 359 entrées the hospitals served, only 7 percent were classified as healthy according to the NEMS criteria. And while nearly all the hospitals offered healthy alternatives such as fruit, less than one third had nutrition information at the point of sale or signs to promote healthy eating. Among the other key findings:
- 25 percent sold whole wheat bread.
- 44 percent did not have low calorie salad dressings.
- All 14 food venues offered low-fat or skim milk and diet soda.
- Half the hospitals did not provide any indication that they carried healthy entrées.
- 81 percent offered high-calorie, high-sugar items such as cookies and ice cream near the cash register.
Since no one has previously documented the health of food in these hospitals, researchers provided hospital administrators with their scores to encourage improvement. Since the study was conducted in July 2010, some hospitals surveyed have taken steps to either improve their fare and/or reduce unhealthy offerings. For example, some have eliminated fried food, lowered the price of salads, and increased the price of sugary beverages or eliminated them altogether from their cafeterias.
"The steps some hospitals are already taking to improve nutrition and reduce junk food are encouraging," Lesser said. "We plan to make this nutritional quality measurement tool available to hospitals around the country to help them assess and improve their food offerings."
Researchers said hospitals can improve the health of their food offerings by providing more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and smaller portions; shrink the amount of low-nutrient choices, and utilize low-cost options to promote healthy eating such as signage and keeping unhealthy impulse items away from the checkout stand.
"If we can't improve the food environment in our hospitals, how do we expect to improve the health of food in our community" Lesser said. "By serving as role models for healthy eating, we can make a small step toward helping children prevent the onset of dietary-related chronic diseases."
Hospitals the researchers surveyed were:
- Miller Children's Hospital
- Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA
- Children's Hospital, Los Angeles
- Children's Hospital of Orange County
- Rady Children's Hospital - San Diego
- Children's Hospital, Central California
- Loma Linda University Children's Hospital
- University of California, Davis Children's Hospital
- Children's Hospital & Research Center at Oakland
- Lucile Salter Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford
- Children's Center at Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento
- University of California, San Diego Children's Hospital
- University of California, San Francisco Children's Hospital
- University Children's Hospital at University of California, Irvine
About the Study
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded this study. In addition to Lesser, researchers on this study were Dana E. Hunnes, Phedellee Reyes, Robert H. Brook and Lenore Arab of UCLA; and Gery W. Ryan and Deborah A. Cohen of the RAND Corporation. The research findings presented here are those of the researcher and are not necessarily the views of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
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Cite This Page (APA): University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences. (2011, December 1). Unhealthy Food Served in Children's Hospitals. Disabled World. Retrieved June 28, 2022 from www.disabled-world.com/fitness/child-obesity/hospital-food.php
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