Working Together to Create a Healthier America

C-stores and suppliers play an integral role in improving public health.

October 24, 2018

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Good health care and nutrition are inaccessible for many Americans. A June Hudson Institute report shows that the convenience retailing industry can be a positive force in changing behavior and helping reverse obesity levels.

According to a recent Forbes article, “3 ways to help public health activists think like marketers,” public health advocates would benefit from a better understanding of industry—food and beverage companies as well as the organizations that provide medical care—and the willingness to work with external partners rather than alone.

Public health advocates’ attempts to enact legislation, taxes and bans on products such as soda, high-calorie or high-sugar foods have been largely unsuccessful. Article author Hank Cardello, a former food industry executive, suggests that health advocates adjust their approach and think of themselves as advisers rather than crusaders. And they should adopt the mindset of the industry the advocates often rally against—by thinking like marketers.

Cardello advises that health advocates use three tactics from the marketers’ playbooks:

  1. Speak the language of business, showing the financial benefits of healthier eating rather than acting as a corporate watchdog
  2. Spark industry competition with comparative reports such as the Access to Nutrition Index
  3. Catch companies doing the right thing rather than demonizing those that fall short

These approaches will help health care advocates collaborate with industry and explore potentially valuable partnerships, according to Cardello. This starts with both sides understanding the value of the other and finding mutual interests, he said.

“The most effective change comes by understanding where the other side is coming from and in working together,” says Jeff Lenard, vice president of strategic industry Initiatives at NACS. “That’s certainly something NACS is doing with our reFresh initiative by partnering with leading groups to move us forward, whether related to food—Partnership for a Healthier America—or trash—Keep America Beautiful—to name two groups.

Cardello previously has worked with NACS, defining opportunities and outlining health and wellness trends and strategies for the c-store sector.

For more information on how retailers can enhance positive perceptions of the convenience industry and form strategic partnerships, see the reFresh resources that NACS offers.