The Healthy Food Movement: Strength in Unity

The Healthy Food Movement: Strength in Unity
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The tobacco industry has focused more recently on divide-and-conquer strategies to create schisms within the tobacco control movement. We in the healthy food community can learn from this by staying united and not allowing minor disagreements to distract us from the bigger picture.

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Dietary changes appear to be shifting universally toward a diet dominated by higher intakes of calorie-dense foods – corn syrup, sugar, animal products, and oils – thanks to global agricultural policies that have built in a long-term focus on creating things like cheap corn. Consumption of these foods high in saturated and trans fats, salt, and sugar is the cause of at least 14 million deaths every year.

This is not a failure of individual willpower, says the Director-General of the World Health Organization. This is a failure of political will to take on big business, which is a formidable opposition. Few governments prioritize health over big business. As we learned from experience with the tobacco industry, a powerful corporation can sell the public just about anything.

This is difficult terrain for many public health scientists. It took five decades after the initial studies linking tobacco and cancer for effective public health policies to be put in place, with enormous cost to human health. Must we wait another five decades to respond to the epidemics of dietary diseases?

They do have money on their side. The chemical, tobacco, and food industries have the luxury to share similar tactics with the drug companies, because they have the resources to do so. By contrast, powerful and cheap health-promoting activities like eating a healthy diet are too cheap and can’t be patented.

Preventing cardiovascular disease is not an easy task because it means engaging in a battle against strong industrial sectors, but it is possible with sufficient political courage. And, it’s been done before. There’s a great example of action in public health nutrition that is succeeding: the move back to breastfeeding. Breastmilk doesn’t make anyone money. So, companies like Nestle pushed infant formulas, and millions of babies may have died as a result.

But a global movement rose up and resulted in the passage of a code regulating the marketing of breastmilk substitutes. As the Director-General of the World Health Organization at the time said, “Without their constant lobbying, reminding us of our duty as public health officers, they simply would not have had the courage to do it.” What has this got to do with nutrition and food policy now? Everything, if we want to improve public health. We must seek out the food and nutrition equivalents of Greenpeace. We should be prepared to stand up and be counted, even if it puts jobs and careers in nutrition on the line.

To do that, the healthy food movement needs to stay united. Phillip Morris is still fighting into the 21st century. Check out their latest campaign, dubbed, ‘‘Project Sunrise,’’ which they hope will lead to the ‘‘Dawn of a new day’’ for the company: an explicit divide and conquer strategy against the tobacco control movement. This is from the actual internal planning documents.

They figured the #1 vulnerability of the anti-smoking movement is that their success may blind organizations to carefully orchestrated efforts by the tobacco industry and its allies to accelerate turf wars and exacerbate philosophical schisms.

Their overall objective is to attack the credibility of the anti-smoking movement by creating schisms, to force them to fight amongst themselves. Think of how much of that we already do in the healthy food movement, distracting us from the bigger picture. Because unity was identified as a source of strength for the anti-smoking movement, one of their primary strategies is to drive a wedge between various anti-smoking groups. Another is to weaken the public health movement’s credibility.

One strategy to weaken the credibility of anti-tobacco groups is to develop communications strategies to demonstrate the extremism of the health prevention movement. First tobacco, then alcohol, then meat, then who knows? Not only are tobacco lawyers a bit spelling challenged, but public health groups are part of a health promotion movement. Health prevention is more the purview of Big Ag.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Wolfgang Sterneck via Flickr.

Dietary changes appear to be shifting universally toward a diet dominated by higher intakes of calorie-dense foods – corn syrup, sugar, animal products, and oils – thanks to global agricultural policies that have built in a long-term focus on creating things like cheap corn. Consumption of these foods high in saturated and trans fats, salt, and sugar is the cause of at least 14 million deaths every year.

This is not a failure of individual willpower, says the Director-General of the World Health Organization. This is a failure of political will to take on big business, which is a formidable opposition. Few governments prioritize health over big business. As we learned from experience with the tobacco industry, a powerful corporation can sell the public just about anything.

This is difficult terrain for many public health scientists. It took five decades after the initial studies linking tobacco and cancer for effective public health policies to be put in place, with enormous cost to human health. Must we wait another five decades to respond to the epidemics of dietary diseases?

They do have money on their side. The chemical, tobacco, and food industries have the luxury to share similar tactics with the drug companies, because they have the resources to do so. By contrast, powerful and cheap health-promoting activities like eating a healthy diet are too cheap and can’t be patented.

Preventing cardiovascular disease is not an easy task because it means engaging in a battle against strong industrial sectors, but it is possible with sufficient political courage. And, it’s been done before. There’s a great example of action in public health nutrition that is succeeding: the move back to breastfeeding. Breastmilk doesn’t make anyone money. So, companies like Nestle pushed infant formulas, and millions of babies may have died as a result.

But a global movement rose up and resulted in the passage of a code regulating the marketing of breastmilk substitutes. As the Director-General of the World Health Organization at the time said, “Without their constant lobbying, reminding us of our duty as public health officers, they simply would not have had the courage to do it.” What has this got to do with nutrition and food policy now? Everything, if we want to improve public health. We must seek out the food and nutrition equivalents of Greenpeace. We should be prepared to stand up and be counted, even if it puts jobs and careers in nutrition on the line.

To do that, the healthy food movement needs to stay united. Phillip Morris is still fighting into the 21st century. Check out their latest campaign, dubbed, ‘‘Project Sunrise,’’ which they hope will lead to the ‘‘Dawn of a new day’’ for the company: an explicit divide and conquer strategy against the tobacco control movement. This is from the actual internal planning documents.

They figured the #1 vulnerability of the anti-smoking movement is that their success may blind organizations to carefully orchestrated efforts by the tobacco industry and its allies to accelerate turf wars and exacerbate philosophical schisms.

Their overall objective is to attack the credibility of the anti-smoking movement by creating schisms, to force them to fight amongst themselves. Think of how much of that we already do in the healthy food movement, distracting us from the bigger picture. Because unity was identified as a source of strength for the anti-smoking movement, one of their primary strategies is to drive a wedge between various anti-smoking groups. Another is to weaken the public health movement’s credibility.

One strategy to weaken the credibility of anti-tobacco groups is to develop communications strategies to demonstrate the extremism of the health prevention movement. First tobacco, then alcohol, then meat, then who knows? Not only are tobacco lawyers a bit spelling challenged, but public health groups are part of a health promotion movement. Health prevention is more the purview of Big Ag.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Wolfgang Sterneck via Flickr.

Doctor's Note

Not only do public health nutrition groups fight amongst themselves–they sometimes they even bed down with Big Food. See Collaboration with the New Vectors of Disease and American Medical Association Complicity with Big Tobacco

The True Health Initiative, spearheaded by Dr. David Katz, is a great example of the strength in unity concept I’m trying to get across in this video. Please consider joining.

For more on unbelievable tobacco tactics, see:

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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