The right partnerships are crucial, and they might not appear where you expect

Many of the programs we have highlighted in this Anthology effectively employ partnerships rather than trying to implement change on their own. Likewise, many of the people we spoke to, especially those who have been in community-, state-, or national- level prevention efforts, emphasized the importance of partnerships. Many of the important partnerships involve the locations and institutions with which people engage on a daily basis—schools, offices, parks and city streets, restaurants, grocery stores, and so forth. Grocery stores and other places where people purchase food, such as convenience stores, were frequently mentioned. Retail food outlets are, after all, the primary location in which food purchasing decisions are made. The advertising, layout, and selection of grocery stores are thus a primary mediator of our eating, and stores represent a valuable target for both environmental change and education. Several experts also spoke about grocery stores as a setting to deliver nutrition education in a practical, engaging, even game-like way.

Interestingly, two potential partners that are cited as being most challenging collaborators were medical centers and governments. Unlike workplaces, schools, and grocery stores, most people rarely visit hospitals or other clinical settings. Thus, medical facilities are less likely to be the place where behavior change, or even sustained education, can take place. Hospitals do still have potential to be valuable partners, however. Dr. Bloch said that the key to involving hospitals in prevention is by making them places of health, not just of illness.

Governments, while potentially quite important as an ally, can also be challenging to work with. One major challenge was politics, and particularly political turnover rates, which can often be the enemy of sustainability. Prevention is a long-term process, and the benefits are not necessarily seen within the time-frame of an election cycle, meaning that it is hard to encourage elected officials to prioritize prevention. Additionally, political shifts can lead to abrupt changes or cuts to programs and their funding. Of course, governments can also be among the most powerful allies in prevention efforts, especially in their ability to regulate and coordinate at scale.