Chronic diseases and health promotion

Part Four - Taking action: essential steps for success

Chapter Two - The private sector, civil society and international organizations

Other roles for private sector. Spotlight: UK

Other roles for the private sector include information and experience sharing. The private sector possesses essential and specialized skills that are valuable for chronic disease prevention and control. For example, expertise in marketing, advertising and brand promotion could be offered to strengthen public awareness and education campaigns. Charitable giving is another way in which the private sector can contribute to chronic disease prevention and control. The media and entertainment industry can use programming, media access and celebrity figures to deliver key messages about chronic diseases.

Spotlight: Reducing salt intake in the United Kingdom

In November 2003 a "Salt Summit" in the UK brought together departmental health ministers, the Chief Medical Officer, the chair of the Food Standards Agency, food retailers, producers, caterers, and health and consumer groups to discuss plans to reduce salt in foods to meet the government’s target of reducing salt consumption in the population from 9.5 g to an average of 6 g per person per day by 2010.

The summit concluded that reduction programmes were taking place on a broad front with action at different stages between different companies and sectors. However, further work was needed to meet the reduction target. A joint programme of work has been agreed between the Department of Health and the Food Standards Agency, following meetings with industry and the submission of further plans. By February 2005, around 65 key food industry organizations had met government officials to discuss salt reduction plans, resulting in 52 commitments from across all sectors of the food industry. In September 2004, the Food Standards Agency launched a high-profile consumer awareness campaign on salt.

The tracking research is now showing a steady increase in the number of people who recognize that they might have a problem with too much salt in their diet and who are now trying to cut down. Between August 2004 and January 2005 there was:

  • a 32% increase in people claiming to be making a special effort to cut down on salt;
  • an increase of 31% in those who look at labelling to find out salt content;
  • a 27% increase in those who say that salt content would affect their decision to buy a product "all of the time".

The next stage of the programme of work with industry will include the following:

  • Establishing targets for specific categories of foods, especially those making the greatest contribution to population salt intakes; proposed targets have been identified following discussion with the industry and a public consultation is being held prior to publication of the targets in November 2005.
  • Obtaining further long-term plans with specific measurable stepwise commitments to salt reduction capable of delivering the Government’s target of 6 g average daily intake by 2010, as well as securing clear data from all relevant organizations to ensure that salt reduction claims can be verified.
  • Focusing on securing further salt reductions particularly in the cereal and meat, pizzas, ready meals and sandwich product categories (these make the biggest contributions to adult salt intakes in the UK).
  • Developing a clear programme of work for the catering sector and public procurement, including specific guidelines for salt reduction, in consultation with the key stakeholders.