What's the Big Deal?: The Ethics of Public-Private Partnerships Related to Food and Health
26 Pages Posted: 22 May 2013
Date Written: May 23, 2013
Public-private partnerships have become increasingly attractive to public sector entities (including government agencies and academic research institutions), particularly in the wake of diminishing public funds to support health research and public health interventions. When such partnerships are formulated, the participants tend to emphasize synergies between the missions or goals of the public and private partners. However, the missions of public and private sector actors usually diverge in significant ways. Consequently, these partnerships can have serious implications for the integrity and trustworthiness of public officials and institutions, and for trust and confidence in those officials and institutions. In this article, I employ the institutional corruption framework to highlight systemic concerns presented by public-private partnerships related to food and health. I argue that prevailing analytical approaches to such partnerships tend to downplay or ignore these systemic effects and their ethical implications. I offer some guidance for public sector actors wishing to think more critically and systemically about public-private partnerships. Public sector actors need to reconsider partnership as a default paradigm for engagement with the private sector. They also need to be more vocal about which goals they can and cannot achieve given limitations in the available sources of public funding.
Keywords: Institutional corruption, public-private partnership, PPP, 3P, corporate philanthropy, ethics, integrity, trustworthiness, trust, confidence, food, nutrition, soda-tax, obesity, health policy
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