Can we leave industry to lead efforts to improve population health? Yes

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f2279 (Published 17 April 2013)
Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2279

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  1. Derek Yach, executive director
  1. 1Vitality Institute, 1515 Broadway, New York, NY 10036, USA
  1. dyach{at}thevitalitygroup.com

Derek Yach argues that business has good motivation to tackle public health problems such as the obesity epidemic, but, ultimately, says Klim McPherson (doi:10.1136/bmj.f2426), companies are interested in their shareholders

In the past century, the food industry has provided a sustainable source of nutritious, safe, and affordable foods that support physical and intellectual development and foster intergenerational improvements in health and economic development.1 Undernutrition has fallen considerably worldwide.2 In the past two decades, however, high body mass index has risen in ranking from 11th to 6th place out of the 20 leading risk factors for disease burden, as measured by the percentage of global disability adjusted life years.3

The causes of obesity are complex, and no one approach can tackle them all. Despite government initiatives and regulations, the problem persists in industrialised and developing countries. Voluntary action in the private sector, specifically by the food and drinks industry, can complement public policies and is, in some cases, more effective than government restrictions. Regulation and litigation may be viewed as simplistic approaches, especially in countries where most food produced is beyond the regulatory reach of governments, while hindering innovation.

Industry led efforts to improve the nutritional quality of products have accelerated in the past decade, often in the absence or in advance …

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