Should Businesses be involved in Public health?

The current government has come under scrutiny over its decision to involve major food providers in shaping public health.  It has been suggested that the food industry is better placed to have an influence on people’s diet and lifestyle and they have the resources to do so.  This approach, also known as nudging, rests on the idea that by changing a person’s environment you can change their behavior.

The British Medical Journal have published a article assessing the nudging approach. The evidence to show the effectiveness of nudging as a tool to improve a population health has been reprted as being weak.

“Without regulation to limit the potent effects of unhealthy nudges in existing environments shaped largely by industry, nudging towards healthier behaviour may struggle to make much impression on the scale and distribution of behaviour change needed to improve population health to the level required to reduce the burden of chronic disease in the UK and beyond.”

(British Medical Journal, Judging nudging: can nudging improve population health? Jan 2011 BMJ 2011; 342:d228)

It is unclear how effective nudging will be, in improving a population’s health.  Nudging may influence the public to choose healthier option in the short – term, but influencing a population to change their behavior long term may be more of a difficult task!

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