Interview with Partnership For A Healthier America (Continued)


Partnering with Corporate America

Kelly: Some people have been very skeptical that corporate America can change its behavior because of different things we have seen in terms of their behavior – also because of its major focus on profits. Tell us how do you work with these companies, and how confident are you now, a year in, that you can really change corporate America?

Dr. Gavin: Kelly, one of the things that we've found, and Larry alluded to this, is that it hasn't been very difficult to get corporate leaders and organizations to understand the scope and the impact of this problem and what that means to the future health of this country. When we talk about our children and even beyond that, when you look at things like the military, they now understand the problems they will encounter, in terms of things like readiness for putting soldiers in the field and people in the workforce. All of these have common origins, so it's easier for them to understand the problem.

Beyond that, it's becoming clear that, with the bully pulpit and the attention that Mrs. Obama has given to this, companies are now coming to the table and asking the right questions. Namely, Wal-Mart has asked, "What can we do in the context of how we go about our business?" And that's when the creative process takes place.

That's why it's so important to have a lot of minds . . . try and address those questions. With the Wal-Mart example, what do they do with respect to making healthy food choices? What could they do to take away price premiums from more healthy foods? What could they do to affect the composition of the foods that they get from their supply line?

These are the things that Wal-Mart has been able to negotiate around, because they recognize how they can contribute to potential solutions to the problem. That's the kind of approach we try to develop with all of the different companies: whether they make food, manufacture processed food, market messages about food, engage in physical activity issues, or educate people.

So what we try to do is to get people to the table and create a win-win situation, which means that we have discussions about what it means potentially to the bottom line. You can't escape those kinds of questions. Our goal is not to try and put anybody out of business or in a compromised situation with respect to the market, but rather to try to work toward the same goal in the most productive way possible, in the name of improving the health of our children. So that's a broad view of our approach.

Kelly: How does the process compare when you work with companies that are already directly engaged in childhood development, like the childcare company Bright Horizons?

Larry: In the case of Bright Horizons, we were working with a true leader in the space, who had already taken important steps to ensure that their facilities were serving children well. However, we asked them to agree to not only abide by these standards, but also to sign an agreement with us, agree to be evaluated by us, and understand that we would publicly report our findings. One of the major goals of our childcare program is to utilize the Bright Horizons example of stepping up and ask others in the space to do the same. We urge parents to ask their child care facilities if they meet these standards. We partnered with Nemours [a children's health system and founding member of PHA] who has built a website for child care providers to get resources on how to meet these standards.

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Last Modified Date: April 23, 2013

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by Brenda Bell
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