New workshop reports now posted

We have just finalized and posted the two workshop reports for 2011. Go to our Resources page to view a brief summary or to read the full reports.

Food Industry: Friend or Foe?

Is it possible, appropriate or even necessary to work with the food industry to address obesity? This is a question we will be debating at the upcoming meeting of The Obesity Society.

The point of the  presentation is to explore both the intended and unintended consequences of partnerships and collaborative relationships based on what Solomon and Flores call “authentic trust” (which differs from basic trust or cordial hypocrisy) and built across sectors including academia, the food industry, government and non-governmental organizations.

Why should we even consider partnerships or collaborations? Here is a glimpse of the reasons.

The challenge of addressing the growing epidemics of obesity and associated chronic disease is clearly complex.  The Foresight Obesity System map identifies more than 100 variables causally related to obesity, some specific to individuals and some relevant to their environments, including the food and food messaging environment.  This intricate mix of physical, behavioural, environmental, social, economic and political factors cannot be solved with a simple solution and neither can any single sector or group hope to effectively address it in isolation. Appropriate solutions for complex problems require collaboration across sectors, organizations and disciplines.

Given the many interdependencies between food production and food consumption, we think it is essential to explore how partnership and collaboration with the food industry is possible, acceptable, and maybe even necessary to improve the food supply and other aspects of our food system that affect food consumption.

Partnerships across sectors are possible and there are many examples of successful collaborations built on trust between the food industry, academia, NGOs and government.  But what are the metrics of success and are the potential trade-off acceptable?  Can the unintended consequences of these partnerships mitigate their intended benefits?  Without partnerships will we ever be able to drive sufficient change in the food supply to improve food consumption?

These are precisely the types of important questions we hope to address in the debate at The Obesity Society’s meeting. Stay tuned for details on how everything unfolds. Until then, where do you stand?

Welcome to the Building Trust Initiative!

After a few years of holding private workshops to begin a dialogue around the role of “trust” in addressing chronic diseases, we tested the waters last spring, by opening the dialogue to a broader audience in order to weigh their interest and receptiveness to the idea of building trust as a basis to address complex problems like obesity (see this history in the resources page).

The positive response to that initial exercise has motivated us to move ahead with an even more public presence among interested stakeholders: The Building Trust Initiative blog.

As it currently stands, the blog acts more as a reference point for what the Building Trust Initiative stands for (more on that on the About page and in the video to your right) and also acts as a placeholder for some of our material, like the workshop reports.

With time, we hope this blog becomes a platform to encourage dialogue on the importance of building trust and the implications behind this.