Melissa Musiker is a registered dietician and a member of APCO’s Washington, D.C., health policy team.
The international community gathers for the United Nations High-Level Meeting (UN HLM) on Non Communicable Disease (NCDs) this week in New York. Many are optimistic that the UN HLM will intensify focus within the international community on NCDs and solidify the link between NCDs and economic growth. The UN HLM has the potential to be the beginning of a global drive against NCDs. But this global drive must positively engage all sectors of society for it to be successful.
On September 14, 2011, The Washington Post and Eli Lilly and Company hosted a one-day event, “Sharing the Responsibility: Noncommunicable Diseases.” The event brought together leaders from the health care industry, government, academia and NGOs to discuss the challenges of managing NCDs in advance of the UN HLM. Panelists discussed best practices, the role of private-public partnerships and looked at next steps in the fight against NCDs.
During a panel on public and private partnerships, which emphasized the need for shared value between a company’s core business and its positive societal impact, Mark Kramer, a senior fellow in the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, who along with Michael Porter wrote the widely-read “Creating Shared Value” article for the Harvard Business Review, noted that private industry was moving away from social responsibility focused on donations, to one which invests in markets and designs products to meet the challenges of these markets including NCDs.
The NCD debate will continue to affect the global political economy for the foreseeable future. Until the growth of NCDs begins to slow, uncomfortable pressure will be put on industries perceived to be most significantly contributing to their growth with the food and beverage industry squarely in the cross-hairs. Market conditions will be most favorable to businesses investing in approaches to stem the tide of NCDs with the model of “shared value” as the operational standard.
Often in the NCD debate, government is called upon to regulate the food and beverage industry through tax policy, marketing restrictions or reformulation mandates. Policies that acknowledge the role of the food and beverage industry as a valued partner in finding effective, pragmatic solutions and that incentivize the development innovative products to address NCDs must also be seriously considered.
For a global issue as significant as tackling NCDs, a “whole of society” approach is needed that involves all groups (government, private industry, civil society, etc.) that have an impact on the food environment. Collaborative public-private partnerships bringing together all sectors and built upon the concept of “shared value” will lead to the most lasting and meaningful progress to address the epidemic of NCDs globally.