Dear North York General Hospital:

I work in a nutrition clinic at your facility.  Many of my patients struggle with obesity.  It is my job to help them and their families learn to make healthier lifestyle changes in the spirit of mitigating their risks of developing obesity-related disease: metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, social stigmatization, depression … the list goes on.

Today I came down to the cafeteria and noticed the following sign, flanked by rows and rows of potato chips, strategically placed prominently in a central, high-traffic area:

If I understand correctly, you are encouraging your patrons to buy unhealthy pizza (especially slices with pepperoni) so that they can get $10 off tickets for the most sedentary activity known to humankind: movie-watching. And the physical arrangement also suggests that your patrons should consider buying a bag of chips to go with their slice.

By the way, The amount of salt in the one slice of pizza and one bag of chips exceeds the total daily recommended sodium intake for an entire day.

This disturbs me. I was particularly saddened as I watched one of my patients, fresh out of my counselling session about healthy food choices, notice the sign and respond with excitement to ‘such a great deal’. He bought and ate two slices.

You state in your press releases that North York General Hospital “embraces health by providing innovative and compassionate care for the whole family at every stage of life.”

This marketing tactic is not an example of embracing health.  Quite the opposite.  It undermines the work that we do as health care providers helping our patients bring health and balance to their lives.

Why should we (patrons, patients and employees), day in and day out, have to incessantly fight our lunchtime/dinnertime/anytime impulses to buy pizza, chips and pop every time we walk past the cafeteria. Shouldn’t a hospital be a safer place that gives us respite and protection from subversive anti-health marketing tactics of this nature?

As an institution that aspires to bring health to its community, how have you allowed this to happen? Why make healthy choices ever-increasingly difficult for your patients, patrons, and employees?

We can do better.

Please take this sign down.  


Yours sincerely,

Daniel Flanders, MD FRCPC