From Outrage to Engage

As Scientific Director of the Canadian Obesity Network, I have long maintained that the solutions to obesity are everyone’s responsibility and we therefore need to involve all relevant stakeholders in trying to find solutions.

This includes “Big Food”, “Big Pop”, “Big Juice”, “Big Dairy” and every other “Big Whatever” – the bigger the better. The problem however lies in whether we, who are trying to tackle the obesity epidemic, can truly trust these industries to sincerely help and engage in finding solutions (while of course still making a buck or two).

This is precisely the topic of a meeting that I am currently attending in Toronto with the title: Building Authentic Trust to Address the Epidemic of Obesity and Chronic Diseases.

Attendees at this meeting include numerous academic scientists, government, non-government organizations, consumer representatives, and of course, major food manufacturers including McDonalds, Kraft, Unilever, Kellogs, Pepsico, and many others.

Supporters of this event include the Canadian Obesity Network, the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation and the International Life Science Institute.

Interestingly, this has been a most open and constructive discussion – especially on some issues, where we can in the end perhaps only agree to disagree.

Despite these differences, I am definitely impressed by the candidness and sincerity of the discussions. After all, the whole point of the meeting is to try and negotiate and understand other points of view, look forward and not back, look for solutions rather than attribute blame, and of course, determine and explore the conditions, boundaries and limits of trust.

Kudos to Diane Finegood, former Director of the CIHR Institute for Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes, for initiating this important dialogue. I think it is a good start – will need to wait and see where it will lead.

I, for my part, will certainly be keeping an open mind.

Toronto, Ontario