by Bill Frist, M.D.
At the start of a new year, we often find ourselves making resolutions to eat healthier and get active (I know I’m one of those people!). But the good news is, America’s interest in healthier foods has become a year-round trend, not just a New Year’s fad.
More than 66% of shoppers say they want to make healthier choices while at the grocery store. Low-calorie options accounted for 82% of snack food sales growth in 2013. Restaurant chains that increased lower-calorie menu options reported increases in store sales, customer traffic, and servings sold.
With a new Congress and a new presidential Administration starting on Friday, we have an opportunity to continue to support business-driven successes in incorporating healthier choices into Americans’ diets.
Since its inception, PHA has worked with more than 200 partners that have removed more than 6 trillion empty calories from the marketplace, committed to invest over $100 million in physical activity, and committed to create healthier childcare and out-of-school time centers for more than 6 million children.
Its partners – including Dannon, GE, Walmart, and Subway, to name a few – have increased access to healthy, affordable food for more than 8.1 million people living in communities with limited options for grocery shopping. In the process, it created more than 42,000 new jobs in neighborhoods that sorely needed them.
None of these commitments was made through legislation or regulation. It is completely independent from federal policy. The goal is to make healthy options accessible and affordable to all Americans who want them. And when companies decide to increase available choices, consumers reward them with their purchasing dollars.
One example can be seen in the home state of Speaker Paul Ryan. KwikTrip, a Wisconsin-based chain of more than 475 convenience stores and PHA partner, greatly expanded its fruit and vegetable offerings and prominently displayed healthier food choices to customers – who literally ate them up! The chain increased bulk produce sales by 5.5% in its first year as a PHA partner.
As new presidential priorities are shaped, business-savvy CEOs will continue to follow the lead of consumers, which is heading in one direction – demanding healthier, fresher foods. I am hopeful that as President, Mr. Trump will continue to acknowledge and support these companies in their efforts to give Americans healthier choices that get to the root causes of some of our nation’s population health challenges.
By some measures, the global estimated impact of obesity is a staggering $2 trillion. We continue to make gains, especially among our youngest children, but one in three children is not at a healthy weight. There is so much more work to be done. And it won’t stop whether it’s a Republican or Democrat in the Oval Office.
As the Honorary Co-Vice Chair for PHA, I am excited to know that we have a winning strategy by working with the private sector, and hope to encourage another 200 companies to keep developing solutions that are good for business, good for our economy, and good for the health of our nation.
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