Over the past few decades, cross-sector partnerships with the private sector have become an increasingly accepted practice in public health, particularly in efforts to address infectious diseases in low- and middle-income countries. Now these partnerships are becoming a popular tool in efforts to reduce and prevent obesity and the epidemic of noncommunicable diseases. Partnering with businesses presents a means to acquire resources, as well as opportunities to influence the private sector toward more healthful practices. Yet even though collaboration is a core principle of public health practice, public-private or nonprofit-private partnerships present risks and challenges that warrant specific consideration. In this article, we review the role of public health partnerships with the private sector, with a focus on efforts to address obesity and noncommunicable diseases in high-income settings. We identify key challenges-including goal alignment and conflict of interest-and consider how changes to partnership practice might address these.
Keywords: complexity; conflict of interest; risk management; systems thinking; trust.