How NOT to do Private Public Partnerships in Public Health Social Marketing… Healthy Eating in the UK

A few years ago I read about a partnership in Great Britain that made me wonder if the new British government had sold out to the private sector and hurt the credibility of private/public partnerships.

Food marketers in the U.K. were being asked to step up efforts to educate the public about healthy eating, after the new British government cut its $120 million Change4Life anti-obesity marketing campaign. In return the government promised not to impose new restrictions on food marketing.

The Conservative Party’s health secretary, Andrew Lansley, ditched the three-year; $120 million budget set aside by his Labour predecessor and urged a “new approach to public health.” Lansley said that he would not be pressing [the commercial sector] to provide actual funding behind the campaign, and they need to do more,” he said. “If we are to reverse the trends in obesity, the commercial sector needs to change their business practices, including how they promote their brands and product reformulation.”

The Business4Life initiative brought  together marketers including Kraft, Coca-Cola, Kellogg, Mars, Nestle, Pepsi Co, Tesco, Cadbury and Unilever and claims on its website that the group will offer the equivalent of $300 million worth of expertise to encourage better diets and more exercise.

“Business is ready to play its part,” said the group’s leader, Ian Barber. “We welcome being seen as part of the solution rather than being constantly castigated as being part of the problem. We are more likely to get the right results if we have a positive role than if we are constantly having mud chucked at us.”

“We have to make Change4Life less a government campaign, more a social movement,” said Lansley. “Less paid for by government, more backed by business. Less about costly advertising, more about supporting family and individual responses.”

Marketers and media owners saw Lansley’s decision as a reprieve from moves to instigate a pre-9 p.m. ban on TV advertising of food that is high in fat, salt and sugar, which would have threatened more than $400 million a year in advertising revenue, according to government regulator Ofcom. Source

The reaction was quite critical:

In their latest attempt to stem the tide of British obesity, the national government is asking junk food producers to fund healthy living campaigns in return for a promise to not slap any taxes on fatty, sugary, salty, processed foods. And in keeping with this new style of governance, the Prime Minister will also be asking London’s crack and crystal meth dealers to fund the nation’s “Say No to Drugs” programs in return for repealing the nation’s drug laws. They may also look into new funding arrangements with the tobacco industry, industrial polluters etc. So, why would junk food producers want to fund successful anti-obesity / healthy living programs? Answer: they wouldn’t. But, they probably won’t mind spending a few million on ineffective programs if it means they can continue making billions selling crap food to the British public. Source

In the Daily Mail a very interesting piece by Sophie Borland and Nick McDermott

And for all those non-Brits out there, don’t think that your government wouldn’t sell you out just as quick. Major food firms will be asked to fund healthy living campaigns but controversially in return will not face a clampdown on fatty, sugary and salty meals, the health secretary said yesterday.

Manufacturers of some of Britain’s most well-known soft drinks, chocolates and snacks will be asked to pay for public advertising campaigns. And in exchange, Andrew Lansley will not pass any new laws on foods which are deemed to be unhealthy.

He told a conference for public health doctors he wanted to free food and drink firms from the ‘burden of regulation’  and would invite them to take on a greater role in public health.Mr Lansley said Government programmes cannot force people to make healthy choices, adding that individuals must take more responsibility for their choices.

‘It’s not about good food or bad food because that way, you just close companies out. It’s actually about a good diet or bad diet, good exercise or lack of exercise, it’s about people having a responsibility,’ he said.

He added it’s ‘perfectly possible to eat a bag of crisps, to eat a Mars bar, to drink a carbonated soft drink’ as long as it is in moderation.

But health campaigners immediately condemned the Government’s decision to go cap in hand to companies such as Cadbury, Mars and Coca-Cola in a bid to motivate people to follow better diets and take more exercise.

‘The quid pro quo is that the department gives industry an assurance that there will be no regulation or legislation over its activities. Source

Betty McBride, director of policy and communications at the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘We wait with bated breath for the fast food merchants, chocolate bar makers and fizzy drink vendors to beat a path to the public health door. ‘Meanwhile, parents and children continue to be faced with the bewildering kaleidoscope of confusing food labels and pre-watershed junk food adverts.’ Source

 In an article Children are Obese due to Overfeeding Not Lack of Exercise Scientists found that lack of exercise is not to blame for increased levels of childhood obesity. A new report suggests that physical inactivity appears to be the result of fatness, not its cause. Researchers now believe that overfeeding by parents and children eating more junk food is the root cause of weight gain. The report also said targeting nutrition rather than exercise was the best way to help obese children lose weight Source

So here we are almost 2 years later and my worst fears have been realised.

The British government’s attempts to get people to eat more healthfully in 2012 are already backfiring, with a top supermarket chain pulling out of a partnership with the Department of Health and an opposition Member of Parliament calling the Change4Life campaign as a “glorified advertisement for big business.”

Since coming to power in May 2010, the Conservative Party-led coalition U.K. government has cut back spending on public health initiatives by at least 50%. In a controversial move, it announced that it would ask marketers to help plug the gap.

The Change4Life campaign launched Supermeals this week with the help of TV chef Ainsley Harriott, who has assembled a book of supposedly healthier versions of the nation’s favorite dishes. It is designed to help families make the most of the Supermeals deals available at local stores and promises that each recipe can feed a family of four for £5 ($7.80). In addition, 4 million recipe packs will be given away to Change4Life supporters.

A government press release said, “Shockingly, research has found that the second-most-popular evening meal is a sandwich as opposed to a balanced meal. … If we plan our meals and shopping, we can save money and make healthier choices at mealtimes.”

The Supermeals drive, which is supported by a national print campaign by M&C Saatchi, has also caused controversy because many of the items use ingredients like processed cheese sauce, which has a high salt and fat content.

Asda defends its involvement in the campaign. According to a statement from the Walmart -owned company: “Healthy eating and planning meals on a budget are really important to our customers and their children all year. That’s why it’s important for us to be involved in the Supermeals campaign, roll back the prices of hundreds of healthier products, including fresh fruit and vegetables, and help promote quick and easy recipe ideas, and try and remove some of the barriers people face in choosing healthy options for their family.” Source

Surprise we have not seen any marketing of Yorkshire Pudding , Toad-in-the-Hole, Fish and Chips, Ploughman’s Lunch , Cottage Pie, Shepherd’s Pie, Gammon Steak with egg, Lancashire Hotpot, BubbleSqueak , English Breakfast, Bangers and Mash, Black Pudding, Bacon Roly-Poly, Cumberland Sausage, Pie and Mash with parsley liquor.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

10 + 16 =