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It's Not Just Dirty Money, But Fattening Too


As more and more companies try to underwrite healthcare centers and research, physician's shouldn't necessarily shy away. They should, however, be prepared for public relations blowback.


Doctors have taken a lot of flak for accepting money from Big Device, Big Pharma, and Big Digital to promote, study, or use their products. As a result, conflict of interest laws and regulations are stricter and reporting requirements to everything from the medical staff office to the National Institutes of Health are in place.

Now, it seems, we have to deal with new demons in the form of corporate sponsorships of medical facilities, much like naming rights on your professional sports stadium or arena. The Krispy Kreme Challenge Children’s Specialty Clinic is the latest example. Of course, fast food restaurants in hospitals are not new, and McHeart Attacks are easily available in some hospital buildings. The problem is a bit less transparent when it comes to researchers accepting big research bucks from tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, agribusiness, or other perceived corporate villains sell things that are assumed or proven to be toxic to population health and contributing to the rise in non-communicable diseases. I've had some experience with this and accepting research dollars from one of these companies seemed to represent such a large public relations threat if it flunked the New York Times test, it took months of work and negotiation and a signoff from almost the entire university leadership food chain.

There are many scientific, organizational, conflict of interest, and public relations issues that come into play when you, your hospital, or your organization accepts money from "suspect donors" so be prepared to execute that crisis management plan you had sitting on the shelf. However, according to the American Management Association, a recent survey on Crisis Management and Security showed that 51% of the organizations surveyed do not have a crisis management in place and 59% to not have written policies and procedures for crisis management.

Accepting money from companies that sell products that are said to be unhealthy is not necessarily unhealthy. After all, it seems doctors, scientists, and agencies are always changing their minds about what's good or bad for us and what is not, like how much sodium we should consume or that thing about drinking eight glasses of water each day. Patients also will ding you on the experience score cards if you don't serve them what they want. That just rubs more salt into the wound.

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