(Dorfman et al., 2005; Freudenberg, 2005; Kreuter, 2005) and internationally (Lang et al., 2006; WHO, 2003, 2004; Yach et al., 2005), industry and individual companies should be involved in changing how they conduct business to address social and economic pressures and consumer demands. This is what marketers refer to as the “strategic inflection point” (Parks, 2002).
The Health in the Balance report emphasized that market forces may be influential in changing both consumer and industry behaviors. To lead healthier and more active lifestyles, young consumers and their parents will need to make positive changes in their own lives, including developing preferences for and selecting foods and beverages that contribute to healthful diets and regularly engaging in more active pursuits. All industries—the food, beverage, restaurant, recreation, entertainment, and leisure industries—should share responsibility for supporting consumer changes and childhood obesity prevention goals. These industries can be instrumental in changing social norms throughout the nation and internationally so that obesity will be acknowledged as an important and preventable health outcome and healthful eating and regular physical activity will be the accepted and encouraged standard (IOM, 2005). The childhood obesity epidemic needs to reach a “tipping point” (Gladwell, 2000), which is the point at which the collective changes made by industry, in concert with efforts in other sectors and by other stakeholders, will produce a large effect to make healthy behaviors and lifestyles the social norm.
It is important to recognize that corporations as employers have an interest in a healthy workforce with healthy families, and many employers are placing an increasing emphasis on obesity prevention and improved employee well-being. Corporate responsibility, health care costs, and lost productivity are key drivers in the development and promotion of employee wellness opportunities. Such employee benefits may include the provision of discounts for health club memberships or gyms at the workplace; offering foods and beverages that contribute to healthful diets in cafeterias, vending machines, and at meetings; and the promotion of walking breaks or physical activity during the work day.
Although this chapter primarily focuses on corporations as the producers and the deliverers of goods and services, corporations are also major consumers of health care and have an increasing interest in the outcomes and impact of obesity on their current and future workforces and their families.
Building consumer demand for regular physical activity and for foods and beverages that contribute to a healthful diet is an ongoing process that