CUNY partnership will assess public health related community programs

blog_CUNYSPHPoor nutrition and lack of exercise are preventable risk factors for chronic disease. Yet, they remain some of the most difficult obstacles to tackle for public health officials. A new partnership between the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Public Health and Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF) aims to assist public health officials in understanding community programs that seek to encourage healthy eating and active lifestyles by cataloging, assessing, and reporting on the quality and impact of these programs. These community programs are primarily sponsored by major food and beverage companies, and there has been almost no previous assessment of them.

Together with other CUNY School of Public Health researchers, Professor Terry Huang, an expert on obesity and community health, is working to form crucial partnerships with public health officials, academics, and several non-profits, according to a recent report on the initiative. Huang believes the ultimate goal of this partnership is to “better maximize industry investment to promote health in communities.” The initiative will, ultimately, allow the food and beverage industry to determine how effective its programs are for the community.  Further, it will develop common metrics for all programs. This has the potential to contribute to a reduction in hunger and obesity.

“The CUNY School of Public Health is focused on innovations that can spur change across sectors to promote health,” Huang said. “However, these are complex public health challenges that require multi-pronged and multi-sectoral approaches. Benchmarking industry activities is an effective way to hold companies accountable and to incentivize innovation and change, and we are very enthusiastic about this opportunity to contribute to this partnership.”

The initiative will develop what Huang calls a “collective impact-type framework.” This framework will be used to assess the effectiveness of each program and identify areas for improvement. The initiative will also identify possible partnership opportunities with other companies, nonprofits, and community members to strengthen existing programs.

We are excited to see the results of CUNY’s work, which will 1) document the impact of these programs, 2) provide aggregate reporting on common metrics, and 3) provide information on individual programs. Results will be publicly available by Q2 2016.