Sponsored Spaces in Hospitals: Minding the Mixed Messages
We recently reported on a new family space in a children’s hospital, funded by—and designed to resemble—a Dunkin’ Donuts restaurant. The goal of the renovated space was to provide a more comfortable environment for patient visitors, complete with different seating options and computer stations, with a feel akin to a coffee shop. Free Dunkin’ Donuts coffee (donated by local franchisees) is there for the brewing by the cupful.
Dunkin’ Donuts has clearly been a good corporate partner to Hasbro Children’s (an organization that obviously has experience with major corporate partnerships), raising nearly $775,000 for the hospital through its annual Iced Coffee Day, launched in 2010. But the new visitor lounge has raised at least a few eyebrows in our industry. One architect commented on our story that, like having McDonald’s franchises within hospitals—especially children’s hospitals—a Dunkin’ Donuts-themed space is a “scandal.”
The argument against hospitals offering fast food within their walls, in a country where obesity is epidemic, gains even more ground as a push toward lifelong wellness management is defining the current healthcare industry mindset. As Dr. Richard Gunderman points out in an Atlantic piece from last fall, facilities including Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville, Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have all recently booted McDonald’s outposts from their grounds.
The Dunkin’ Donuts Family Room at Hasbro Children’s doesn’t serve fast food. It’s just a place to hang out and drink free, branded coffee. But it does kind of look like a fast-food restaurant—is that almost as bad? Does its existence in a hospital setting imply a healthcare endorsement of Dunkin’ Donuts' mostly high-calorie menu of highly processed food and drinks?
That’s a tougher call. And it’s always a challenge to weigh the value of much-needed donations versus the implications of the connection with the source of those donations. This would be a much stickier argument if it were, say, the Marlboro Family Lounge at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, complete with cowboy-themed artwork and decor.
I’d love to know your thoughts on the issue. Is a fast-food-branded visitor space a slippery slope to avoid, or much ado about nothing? Email me, or let me know in the comments below.