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Study: Children's Hospitals Selling Fast Food Sends Mixed Message

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Fast food outlets are common inside U.S. children's hospitals, leading more patients to consume hamburgers and fries and encouraging them to view the fare as healthier than it probably is, a study said on Monday.

Of 200 hospitals with pediatric residency programs surveyed, 59 had fast-food restaurants on site, said the report published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

More than half the patients or family members visiting hospitals with fast food outlets said they ate fast food the day they were surveyed, which was four times the rate among people at hospitals without outlets, the survey of 386 people found.

McDonald's, which does provide financial support to some of the hospitals surveyed and operates several homes for ill children, was the prevalent restaurant in hospitals studied.

McDonald's spokesman Bill Whitman said he had not yet seen the study.

Study author Hannah Sahud of Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago criticized the presence of fast food restaurants in children's hospitals, given the epidemic of childhood obesity that many researchers blame at least in part on fast food.

She said "efforts are needed to balance the dietary choices and social messages" sent by locating them in children's hospitals.