Exclusive: Q+A with American Heart Association’s Dr. Eduardo Sanchez

Source: fooddive.com

Chief Medical Officer for Prevention raises importance of industry collaboration to improve food access, upcoming Summit event

Good nutrition is at the core of good health, but millions of people in the U.S. do not have reliable access to healthy food. And the economic impact of the pandemic has only made it harder for many to afford or access healthy food, putting them at higher risk of developing heart disease and stroke. Improving the health of the food system is no easy task, but creating a health-promoting food system is more important than ever, according to the American Heart Association.

The American Heart Association’s Chief Medical Officer for Prevention, Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, gave an exclusive interview for Food Dive readers about how the American Heart Association is working with the food system and to give you the first peek at an upcoming event for food system professionals.

Why is the American Heart Association working with leaders in the food industry?

Dr. Sanchez: Poor diet and poor access to healthy food access can negatively impact overall health, putting people at higher risk of getting things like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. For nearly 100 years, the American Heart Association has been relentlessly committed to improving and extending lives. As a public health organization, the American Heart Association believes that access to healthy food is a human right, can help reduce health disparities and have an overall positive effect on our nation’s health. Everyone deserves the opportunity for a longer, healthier life.

What is the role of the food industry in this?

Dr. Sanchez: This is a complex issue and the role of the food industry is complex as well. We should always encourage people to make better choices. However, Feeding America estimates as many as 1 in 6 people are struggling with food insecurity, and we’ve all seen the many news stories about lines of people at food banks trying to collect food during the pandemic—this is about people not having enough food. The food industry plays a very important role in improving public health by producing foods that are healthy and affordable, establishing or supporting stores or delivery services where people can more easily access those healthy foods, and advocating for better nutrition policies. Simply said, we should do everything possible to help people make the better choice – the healthy choice –  the easiest choice.

How is the American Heart Association working with the food system?

Dr. Sanchez: The American Heart Association has a unique position with the food system because we are a trusted source of science and science-backed information, and we work in communities across the nation. This enables us to be a convenor for the best of the best in nutrition science, community leaders, health care, and the food industry—including competitors—for the common goal of breaking down the barriers to healthy eating. One facet of our food systems strategy is our annual Foodscape Innovation Summit, historically an invite-only event of non-profit, corporate, government and academic groups.

How can readers get involved?

Dr. Sanchez: You are hearing it here first. I’m excited to share here that for the first time, we are opening up our virtual June 15 Foodscape Innovation Summit to the public. To accelerate change, we will have participation from all sectors of the food system, from pre-production to consumption. This year’s event will gather experts from the American Heart Association, USDA, academia, the food industry, and more to discuss opportunities to work together in support of sustainable nutrition security for all. Registration is free, but limited.

To reserve your spot, at the American Heart Association’s virtual 2021 Foodscape Innovation Summit on June 15, sign up here.