Obesity concerns prompt hospital bans on unhealthy food, drinks

Tired of hearing about how obesity-related medical costs are spiraling out of control, executives at Columbus, Ohio-based Nationwide Children's Hospital have decided to take a proactive approach to the problem. According to an announcement Monday, the hospital has begun to eliminate sugar-sweetened drinks from its campus, a policy that includes gift shops, vending machines and of course, patient service. 

Dr. Kelly Kelleher, director of the hospital's Center for Innovation in Pediatric Practice, said that based on Nationwide's soda sales, patients staff and visitors drank roughly 43,000 pounds of excess sugar in such drinks annually. "That's just unacceptable," he added, "and if we wanted to walk the walk, we needed to do something about it." 

Diet sodas, 100 percent juice and low-calorie flavored waters and sports drinks will still be available to employees, patients and visitors at the hospital, reports the Columbus Dispatch. What's more, to encourage consumption of regular bottled water, costs will be reduced from a high of $1.30 to 99 cents campus wide, the newspaper reports. 

Over the past few years, other health-conscious efforts made by Nationwide have included eliminating deep-fat fryers from room service preparation; tweaking the recipes of popular, high-calorie dishes to make them healthier; and posting nutritional information about all food distributed. 

Other hospitals making similar commitments include neighboring Cleveland Clinic--which actually began a ban on selling sugar-sweetened drinks and food several years ago, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer--and OhioHealth hospitals, which now offers a tiered discount system for employees that incentivizes healthy food choices. For example, according to the Dispatch, a worker who chooses to buy a hamburger and French fries for lunch at the hospital cafeteria will only get a 10 percent employee discount, while one who orders a salad and yogurt will receive a 25 percent discount. 

For more information:
- here's the Nationwide Children's news release
- read this Columbus Dispatch article
- check out this Cleveland Plain Dealer piece