Few topics in medicine are more fraught than industry funding, and corporate relationships. Recent years have seen recurrent commentary, and attendant ethical reforms, related to the infiltration of, and influence by, Big Pharma in clinical practice.
Recent months have seen increasing attention to the matter of industry-funded research, a topic I have myself addressed, more than once. The entanglements of health organizations, such as the former American Dietetic Association (now the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics), and the American Society for Nutrition, among many others, with the interests of corporate sponsors are routinely fodder for high-profile fretting, and practically the stuff of legend.
Perhaps the most notorious, recent illustration of such perils is the rise and fall of an organization called the Global Energy Balance Network, or GEBN. The work of well-known academics, and ostensibly devoted to propagating an understanding of the two sides of the energy balance equation (i.e., calories in, calories out), GEBN proved to be richly funded, and much influenced, by Coca-Cola. The attendant messages, predictably, seemed to emphasize calories out as the easy remedy for any number of calories in, frequent draughts of Coca-Cola presumably among them.
Reacting to all of this, some are faithful apologists, arguing that the liabilities of all bridges built are still less than the liabilities of bridges burned. Others go to the opposite extreme, suggesting that industry funding and corporate ties are inevitably corrupting. In my view, this latter camp overlooks some blatant practicalities, and the enormous costs to society of eradicating important sources of funding for such fundamental needs as pharmacologic advances.
Putting this all together, there is a clear case for caution. Industry relationships and corporate support may prove essential to non-profits, and can confer mutual benefit, but only when such relationships are carefully vetted, and subject to the clear stipulations of what are, in essence, institutional pre-nuptial agreements.
ACLM is proceeding accordingly. We are delighted to announce, with invaluable help from Board member Sami Beg who has contributed everything from practical guidance to the ineffable essentials of wisdom, the formal establishment of our Lifestyle Medicine Corporate Round Table. Our inaugural members are Healthways and Kashi helping to establish the high bar of propriety we intend to honor.
To advance the cause of lifestyle IN medicine will take a village- the village of our members, health care professionals devoted to lifestyle as prevention, treatment, reversal, and gene modifier. We are actively focused on growing that village, and call upon all of you to help. Spread the word, share our recruitment video, and let us help others get involved and help us add years to lives, and life to years, here and around the world.
To advance the cause of lifestyle AS medicine, however, will take a village of villages. This enterprise must run culture-wide, and requires the involvement of, if you will, the military-industrial establishment. For starters, it requires the involvement of industry elements committed to doing well by doing good. The launch of our CRT breaks ground for this village of villages. We very much welcome recommendations from our members for worthy additions to this important assembly.
By growing the strength of our membership, and by building bridges selectively to other institutions, we can transform clinical practice and culture alike. It will take a village, and more.
The job is underway, but it is a big job. The village gates are open, and the welcome sign is up. Please tell your friends.