Nutrition Index, Partnership for a Healthier America shine light on industry efforts to improve health

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

Nutrition Index, Partnership for a Healthier America shine light on industry efforts to improve health
Despite efforts by the largest food and beverage manufacturers in the United States to tackle obesity and diet-related disease in the market, nearly 40% of adults and 18.5% of children in the US are obese – putting them at risk of Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and other serious diseases, according the recently released US Access to Nutrition Index.

The first-ever US Spotlight Index ​acknowledges that “while the causes of obesity are complex, ranging from environmental and economic influences to policies and individual factors,”​ it also notes, “the nutritional quality of foods and beverages offered by America’s major manufacturers and how those products are labeled, marketed, priced and distributed contribute to the obesity epidemic.”

To this last point, the Index reveals industry efforts so far -- while admirable -- are falling short of their full potential.

Making strides

In recent years many major food and beverage manufacturers have teamed with The Partnership for a Healthier America​ to make great strides to improve the nutritional value of the products they offer and amend how they are marketed to place a greater emphasis on healthier options.

For example, Mars Food​ has teamed with PHA to improve the nutritional quality of its product portfolio by 2021 to reduce sodium and added sugars, increase vegetable servings, increase whole grains and update its nutrition criteria to reflect the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Similarly, PepsiCo​ has pledged by 2025 to make at least two-thirds of its global beverage portfolio have 100 calories or fewer from added sugars per 12-oz serving, at least three-quarters of its global foods portfolio to not exceed 1.1 g of saturated fat per 100 calories, and at least three-quarters of its global foods portfolio to not exceed 1.3 mg of sodium per calorie.

Retailers also are getting in on the action, such as the convenience store change Kwik Trip​ which committed to PHA in 2016 to improve access to healthier food and implement a new EATSmart program. As part of these efforts, it is delivering on its commitment to offer four categories of fruit, four categories of vegetables, six whole grain products and four non-fat or low-fat dairy products, all of which are priced lower than the regional average in order to improve access by shoppers of all economic levels.

More progress needed

Despite these notable efforts, the US Spotlight Index 2018 reveals food and beverage manufacturers need to do much more in order to help American’s make more nutritious choices and live healthier lives.

Based on a review of the ten largest food and beverage manufacturers in the US, the report found industry players “lack comprehensive strategies, policies and action to effectively address the nation’s high levels of obesity and diet-related disease.”

In particular, it found the average Corporate Profile score of industry players was only 3 out of 10 and the Product Profile shows that only 30% of products assessed are healthy, contributing to less than a quarter of 2016 sales across the companies.

How PHA is helping industry make the healthy choice the easy choice

While the findings are grim, the US Spotlight is a helpful “benchmarking and accountability tool that can encourage companies to improve their rankings in future years and thus their contributions to increasing consumers’ access to affordable, healthier foods and beverages,​” Nancy Roman, president and CEO of PHA, notes in a recent blog post on PHA's website.

“As an organization dedicated to leveraging the power of the private sector to improve the food supply, we couldn’t be happier to celebrate the progress to date and future opportunities the Index presents,”​ she adds.

True to its word, at its upcoming Accelerating a Healthier Future Summit​in Chicago April 1-2, PHA will honor five companies and organizations for their efforts to transform the marketplace and make the healthy choice the easy choice for American families.

The five finalists for PHA’s 2019 Partner of the Year​ include: the Des Moines Area Religious Council, McLane Company, Inc., the National Association of Convenience Stores, Produce Marketing Association/Sesame Street eat brighter!, and University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension.

At the Summit, PHA also will provide industry players with a platform and tools to continue to make the healthy choice the easy choice through breakout sessions focused on how restaurants can make it easier to eat healthy while eating out, and how technological advances are helping to improve health.

The Summit also will include four workshops designed to deepen attendees understanding of different aspects of public health and how they can be leveraged to support business development. These include a session on a new rules for public health advocates, how sharing an authentic store can ‘unleash impact,’ the role of behavior economics in decision-making and inspiring consistent creativity.

Check out the full agenda and register with a discount HERE​.

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1 comment

nutrient levels

Posted by Cwolf,

Focusing on obesity can be somewhat limiting. Obesity is, after all, malleable. Low BMI, for example, are at higher risk for injuries than high BMI.

The other large risks are sort of invisible. There are, for example, high malnutrition rates (Cropper) and poor bone status rates (Lappe). Plus, malnutrition rates increase on a "healthy diet" (Westphal).

There are even other larger national issues. The USDA, for example, seems to have 2 issue areas.

One is families getting enough food. Which varies widely by state.

Other is nutrients in the food. Which might vary by state/region as well (remember the goiter belt).

Then you get into regional diets (see the Stroke Belt). And individual diet/lifestyle choices (plant-based diets)(Moran).

Therefore, various disease rates may vary by state or region.

“Risk" is likely a cluster of variables, not a single variable. See also the NASA bone research.

Additionally, these data points seem to be shifting rapidly. See NHANES BMD data.
"Bone density’s sudden downward spiral
These national surveys study a multi-ethnic sample of non-institutionalized individuals age 30 and over. Between 2005 and 2010, NHANES data showed bone mineral density to be fairly stable, which seemed to correlate with the slight decrease in hip fracture incidence reported by other researchers. But when they measured bone mineral density in 2014, they found a significant and generalized decrease in bone density.
Survey cycles Bone Mineral Density
2005-2006 Generalized stability of bone density
2007-2008 Generalized stability of bone density
2009-2010 Generalized stability of bone density
2010-2014 Generalized significant decline in bone density
What’s the reason for this?
Take a look at what else happened to us as a population between 2005 and 2014
The percentage of people with a sedentary lifestyle more than tripled — in women, 9.59% reported being physically inactive in 2005 compared to 31.82% in 2014, while in men, 87% reported being physically inactive in 2014 compared to 22.83% in 2005.
Not surprisingly, the percentage of people with hypertension also increased, from 35.4% to 45.08% from 2005 to 2014.
Equally predictably, the percentage of self-reported diabetes increased 6% for both men and women"

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