Business Has the Power and Responsibility to Ensure a Healthier Future For Our Country
Nancy E. Roman
President & Chief Executive Officer Partnership for a Healthier America
I often marvel at the private sector’s under-appreciation of its own power.
So many times across a career that has spanned Wall Street, the United Nations and nonprofit sectors, businessmen and women have remarked to me how rewarding it must be to “make a difference.”
I almost always think - and often, say - that it is they who have the power to make the most difference. The companies that grow, manufacture, distribute and sell food to the public are the ones who have the power. And it is not just them. It is also the companies who employ people (i.e. all companies!).
We are at a critical junction in our nation’s history. It’s very important time for our country and it will most certainly define generations to come. We spend more on health care per capita than any nation in the world, and yet we are getting sicker. America’s children are in the worst shape ever - weighing more today than they have in 40 years - and headed for more obesity, diabetes and other chronic conditions as they become adults. Rates for children with obesity are up tenfold since researchers started studying the problem and there are now 124 million children who have obesity around the world, which is up from 11 million in 1975.
At the Capital Area Food Bank, which I led from 2012 to 2017, we interpreted these depressing statistics as a clarion call to quit giving calories to people and to start focusing on the content of food. We worked to get refined carbohydrates, sodium and added sugar out of the inventory, and to get fruits and vegetables into it.
Food and nutrition are about as fundamental to human existence as breathing - so fundamental in fact that we can forget how central they are to our children’s well being.
That’s why PHA’s strategic focus is to work with food companies to get salt, fat and added sugar out of food; to innovate better-for-you products and to market the good stuff; and to work with all companies on establishing norms that value better food and physical activity.
Companies are an untapped resource in solving the problem. We believe companies have the power - and responsibility - to make America healthier by improving the food supply and creating more opportunities for physical activity in the workplace.
Joining with Corporations, I Believe We Can:
- Create a culture of health so that affordable, nutritious foods, and physical activity are the norm,
- Expand our efforts to affect behavior change – working closely with childhood education centers and institutions of higher education
- Celebrate and uplift the success of our partners and partnerships so that we can all learn from each other.
In my early months as CEO here at PHA, I couldn’t be more optimistic about the future of our country’s health and the future of PHA. It’s imperative we continue building on our 225-plus existing partnerships, while looking for new corporate partners who believe as we do – that it takes our collective efforts and resources for lasting systemic change.