Last week, PepsiCo sponsored the American Dietetic Association’s annual Food & Nutrition Conference in Boston, an event that drew more than 10,000 food and nutrition experts to engage in discussions about global nutrition. By bringing together leading dietitians, nutrition science researchers, policy makers, health care providers and food companies, events like this hold significant potential for the advancement of public health. One thing we learned at the conference was if PepsiCo is serious about helping to solve complex problems like childhood obesity and malnutrition, greater collaboration across sectors is essential.
Several private-public partnerships are proving every day they can develop programs to address complex nutrition issues we face today. In 2006, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation – a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation – joined forces with PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Company and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group to remove full-calorie soft drinks from U.S. schools. Within three years, total calories from soft drink beverages shipped to schools dropped 88 percent.
Another example is the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF), a coalition of retailers, food and beverage manufacturers, NGOs, professional sports organizations and others. Earlier this year, the HWCF joined forces with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Partnership for a Healthier America and announced a pledge to reduce 1.5 trillion calories from the US food supply by 2015, primarily through the development of healthier products.
On a global basis, the chief executives of 10 multinational food and beverage companies, including PepsiCo, signed a Global Commitment to Action in support of implementing the World Health Organization’s Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. PepsiCo and other members have been reporting progress in delivering these goals.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that solutions to complex health and nutrition challenges are rarely simple. Yet too often some in both the public and private sectors over-simplify the issues and solutions, which can create a combative “us versus them” debate. When this happens, progress stands still.
While there’s certainly a lot we can do as a company, there are also limits to what any single organization can achieve on its own. That’s why we’re working with a wide range of partners – including other companies, public health organizations, academic institutions and NGOs – to guide and inform our work. The more we embrace opportunities to collaborate on projects that improve public health and wellness through diet and exercise, the better off we’ll all be.
What do you believe are the most important public health projects to which PepsiCo can contribute?
We look forward to continuing this journey, in concert with our partners, and helping to build a healthier future for all of us.