More than ever before, businesses are rushing to back good causes and to partner with non-profit or government inititiatives that are seen to benefit people. They are doing this to increase their own goodwill and improve their brand image. But what is the cost to society?
Whether it is KFC peddling fried chicken in pink buckets to benefit breast cancer or Nestle promoting active healthy families, “Big Food” likes to have its name all over programs that are trying to improve our health outcomes.
The health organizations that they partner with are more than happy to have the sponsorship dollars to help spread their message further and to help them raise additional funds. But is there a net benefit?
According to an editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal this month, the answer is “no.” Yoni Freedhoff, MD, and Paul C. Hebert, MD, MHSc, wrote the editorial entitled “Partnerships between health organizations and the food industry derailing public health nutrition.”
The editorial explains that these partnerships, which are intended to benefit public health, actually have the opposite effect through the promotion of unhealthy processed food. According to Freedhoff and Hebert, increased physical activity levels would improve our health, but it is the excessive intake of high calorie foods that is the primary driver of increasing obesity rates — a little secret that these “Big Food” packed health initiatives will not tell you.
Freedhoff and Hebert warn health organizations against partnering with the food industry. “These partnerships do not exist in a vacuum,” says Freedhoff in his blog post introducing the editorial. “Diet and weight related illnesses have become the number one preventable cause of death in North America. Health organizations need to divest themselves from Big Food partnerships lest they contribute unwittingly to that burden.”
Freedhoff and Hebert underscore an important point in their editorial and they are not the first ones to have made this point.
However, health organizations still partner with the food industry more and more often. How can health organizations bring about the required change?
Where else can they look for funding so that they do not have to rely on the fatty, sugary, salty dollars of “Big Food?”
Annie blogs about the art and science of parenting at the PhD in Parenting blog.
Image credit: *Jeffrey* on flickr