Hospitals

End the hypocrisy at medical conferences. Phase out unhealthy food

Strike up a conversation in the buffet line at any medical conference and you’ll agree on at least one thing: the way we feed ourselves is among the biggest challenges in keeping America healthy. Then, most likely, a server in the buffet line will offer you a Coke, a bratwurst in a blanket, or some […]

Strike up a conversation in the buffet line at any medical conference and you’ll agree on at least one thing: the way we feed ourselves is among the biggest challenges in keeping America healthy.

Then, most likely, a server in the buffet line will offer you a Coke, a bratwurst in a blanket, or some other kind of unhealthiness.

There is talking the talk (easy at healthcare events) and then there’s walking the walk. If those of us connecting the healthcare community through medical conferences are serious about solving the problems in healthcare, we should look at ourselves. We should do our  best to avoid providing the things tangibly damaging our bodies, leading to obesity and taking such a heavy toll on the healthcare system.

Sponsored Post

Physician Targeting Using Real-time Data: How PurpleLab’s Alerts Can Help

By leveraging real-time data that offers unprecedented insights into physician behavior and patient outcomes, companies can gain a competitive advantage with prescribers. PurpleLab®, a healthcare analytics platform with one of the largest medical and pharmaceutical claims databases in the United States, recently announced the launch of Alerts which translates complex information into actionable insights, empowering companies to identify the right physicians to target, determine the most effective marketing strategies and ultimately improve patient care.

At my two events – MedCity ENGAGE and MedCity CONVERGE – we’ve taken a first step: we won’t serve soft drinks and required the venues to serve their healthy options. This isn’t cheap and I can empathize with megaconferences that have to balance making their budgets while also feed the masses. MedCity’s events are relatively small: we gather a focused collection of less than a 1,000 elite executives, policy leaders, entrepreneurs and investors from across healthcare. Yet, even at that size, healthy options during the networking breaks alone can cost thousands of dollars more. Imagine the cost of events with 2,000 – let along 20,000 – attendees.

But let’s throw out a few statistics we’ve all heard at health conferences:

I suppose I’m making an ideological statement here by “banning” some foods and drinks from my private events. But I believe the following statement is as indisputable as the facts I just listed: our food problem isn’t just about the food we eat but the food available for us to eat. At the micro level, that means the food served at events like CONVERGE and ENGAGE. In a larger sense, it’s about the challenge of finding good food in food deserts and poor neighborhoods. To me, they both connect.

I also realize this gesture is partially symbolic (the hotel bars at my events will have soft drinks). But, in the end, there comes a moment when you feel like a fraud if you assemble a list of rock-star speakers covering topics like the big challenges in diabetes and empowering patients and then turn around and serve your audience food that contributes to the problem.

Some events are already doing this (I’m always struck with the quality of buffet food at TEDMED, for example). But not enough do. If medical conferences promising to address the big problem in healthcare don’t provide healthy food, they’re only contributing to the problem they claim to be trying to solve.

[Photo courtesy of Flickr user Poolie]

Topics