Vending machines in hospitals are hypocritical

Hospitals are by definition centres for the promotion and maintenance of health.  But this week, Dr Rachel Thompson, deputy head of science at World Cancer Research Fund, says that good work is being undermined by the contents of hospital vending machines.

It is no secret that England is facing an obesity crisis.  Obesity-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes are estimated to cost the NHS £4.2 billion and Foresight have forecasted that unchecked, this will double by the year 2050.

So is it hypocritical for the NHS to wag its finger about obesity with one hand, and offer a range of fat, salt and sugar-laden snacks with the other?  Definitely!

One could argue that a person would have to spend a lot of time in a hospital waiting room for the odd hospital vending machine snack to have much effect on their weight, and one would be correct.

But what about the hospital staff?  They spend 40 hours or more every week in the hospital, and the vending machines are an all too easy source of snacks that can be snatched between rounds or on a quick break.

A national audit of the NICE public health guidance for the workplace was published earlier this year, and it reported that only 15% of NHS trusts have a policy or plan to help combat staff obesity.  Just 31% of trusts promoted healthy options for staff in their shops, and not only that, but only 32% of the participant organisations had any measures in place to encourage staff to be more physically active.

2020health believes strongly in the promotion of health and wellbeing in the workplace, and reported on the subject last year in the Healthworks Homerton report.  The Healthworks Homerton initiative was a programme to encourage greater levels of exercise and healthy eating amongst staff.

Key recommendations from the report

  • Organisations should have strong Board level leadership with the resolve to support health and wellbeing, with a visible and approachable operational lead.
  • All organisation-wide policies should have embedded a commitment to health and wellbeing.
  • Organisations should co-ordinate activities between departments that are able to support health and wellbeing at work in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect between employer and employee.

It does no good to lecture people about obesity whilst condoning the sale of fat-laden products and providing no support or encouragement to improve health.  NHS organisations can’t just talk the talk, they have to walk the walk.

2020health is proud to say we walk the walk, and we’ve got new staff-issued pedometers to prove it!

This entry was posted in Health and Wellbeing, Hospitals, NHS, Obesity, Public Health and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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