“There has been a breakdown of trust in lots of different directions between government and media, government and civil society, science and the public, science and the government, science and the private sector, and it is a big challenge,” Damaio told attendees earlier this month at the Partnership for a Healthier America’s annual summit in Chicago.
He noted that the lack of trust between these groups “happened for a number of different reasons, but it is reflected by and a reflection of the burden of disease we see now so shockingly concentrated in the most marginalized and deprived communities across the planet and here in America. Diabetes, heart disease, cardiovascular disease.”
It also partly explains the negative assessment of and push back by some groups against the EAT-Lancet Commission of Food, Planet and Health published in January. That report called on much of the world to double the amount of fruits and vegetables and drastically reduce the amount of animal products they consume in order to create a healthy diet that also is sustainable by the planet.
“We have to actually rebuild that trust so that we can move forward at a scale and pace that we need to if we are going to deliver the world we want to deliver by … 2050,” at which point there are predicted to be 10 billion people on the planet who will need vastly more food than is currently produced today, he said.
Building trust through partnerships
One way that the EAT-Lancet Commission is rebuilding trust is through partnerships with a variety of stakeholders who are all focused on how to achieve the goals laid out in the commission’s report.
For example, he noted that EAT is exploring a “really exciting partnership with UNICEF thinking about how we can use the programmatic power of UNICEF, how we can partner with the global agents of the United Nations and other agencies to drive transformation of the food system,” he explained.
In particular, Damaio said, EAT’s work with UNICEF is focus on helping children transform their approach to nutrition.
One way it is doing this is through the CO-CREATE initiative which brings together 14 research and advocacy organizations to work with adolescents to brainstorm and promote obesity-preventive and climate change policies and actions, he explained. These ideas are being created by children for children, he added.
EAT also is working with the Chatham House to bring together 19 country leaders to think what this new agenda outlined in the commission’s report means and how to implement change, he said.
“How do we actually make it happen in the reality of businesses needing to make money, governments needing to get re-elected, mums and dads needing to actually get through the day and find a moment at the end of the day not to have the finger pointed at them, but actually have real solutions to deliver healthy food to the tables of their families in an affordable, accessible and acceptable way,” he said.
In addition, EAT is working on the EAT-C40 initiative which brings together a global network of 60 cities to look at how to reduce carbon emissions and increase the resilience of the urban food system, Damaio said. He noted that this initiative especially is important because cities and smaller government bodies cans sometimes achieve goals that are more difficult for larger governmental bodies that have to balance and negotiate a wider range of competing values. But all change and all levels is helpful, he added.
Ultimately, Damaio said, even though there is a lot of work to do and a lot of controversy to address, the opportunities for affecting positive change “are everywhere.”