Parental perceptions of onsite hospital food outlets in a large hospital in the North East of England: A qualitative interview study

Lorraine McSweeney, Suzanne Spence, Julie Anderson, Wendy Wrieden, Katie Haighton

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Abstract

Background
Addressing the increasing obesity rates in children living in the United Kingdom has become a priority. A public health level approach as opposed to an individual approach is potentially one way forward. The wider food environment should be designed so that the ‘healthier choice’ is the easiest choice; this includes public sector settings such as hospitals. Many hospital outlets sell and promote food and drinks high in sugar, fat and salt undermining health messages developed by the UK National Health Service. Financial incentives have been provided to encourage hospitals to promote healthier food choices; however, few outlets have complied with the targets. The aim of this qualitative interview study was to determine the dietary perceptions and needs of parents whose children attend a large children’s hospital in the North East of England and to identify potential barriers and facilitators to eating healthily in a hospital setting.

Methods
Eighteen parents whose children attended the hospital as an in- or out-patient were recruited through either ward research nurses, information posters or a parent hospital Facebook page to participate in a one-to-one in-depth interview.

Results
Parents reported a lack of affordable healthy options for sale both for themselves and visiting children. Although parents wanted to see more healthy options available for sale they did not feel it was appropriate to ban or restrict sales of any food types. Parents of frequent or long-term in-patients found it difficult to adequately feed themselves.

Conclusions
The ways in which visitors and staff can be encouraged to choose the healthier option in an NHS hospital setting warrants further investigation. The use of ‘nudge theory’, which has gained particular momentum in areas such as health promotion, may be a tool which can be utilised by hospitals to facilitate the promotion of healthy eating.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0205416
JournalPLoS One
Volume13
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2018

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