While Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics leadership has recently started to have basic discussions on the topic of conflicts of interest and public-private partnerships, other health organizations are light years ahead.
Consider, for example, the renowned World Public Health Nutrition Association (WPHNA), which holds a global conference every four years and, in 2012, had its first one free of industry sponsorship.
As WPHNA explains:
- “The Association wanted to hold meetings where it controlled the agenda and which were free from competing interests. The World Nutrition Rio2012 conference was our first major international meeting. This meeting proved that the Association could organize a big international meeting without funding from conflicted sources, thanks largely to the generous support of the Brazilian government, and in particular the Ministry of Health. This support was made possible by the partner organization that the Association worked with, and the dedication and commitment of our Brazilian colleagues.”
- “There are many different actors in the fields of public heath and nutrition, and the Association feels that we can make more rapid progress by working together with partners that share our values and ethos.” AKA: Not Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Unilever, or General Mills.
Back in 2012, the Journal of the World Public Health Nutrition Association published an excellent editorial on the need for public-public partnerships.
- “The partnerships needed now throughout the world, to confront, control and prevent obesity and related chronic non-communicable diseases, are public-public partnerships. Strategies to prevent disease and to promote good health and well-being, need to be worked out and agreed between actors with no conflicted interests.”
- “Governments [must] do their duty to protect public health, specifically by regulating and restricting the advertising and promotion by transnational and other food and drink product corporations of what in Chile is known as “comida chatarra” – junk food – to children.”
- “In principle, alliances between public bodies inside and outside governments, and industry, are right. But in practice, the partnerships now established are not with industry as a whole, nor with the food and drink industry as a whole. The private ‘partners’ are transnational food product manufacturing corporations whose products collectively are harmful to health, and whose formal duty is to protect their sales, profits and share price, which they do by aggressive advertising and promotion of their branded ultra-processed snack, drink and other products.”
It’s great to know prestigious organizations saw a need to make a change, and did so successfully. It’s also encouraging to know that AND leadership has other organizations and colleagues to turn to, if it finds that it needs help tackling the issue.