SOCAP2013: Global HIV & US food systems, common challenges

(cross-post from Gobee blog)

On Day 2 of SOCAP2013, I attended two panels  to learn about food, but came away with a realization that we’re dealing with identical problems in global HIV treatment and US food systems. (HIV treatment is on my mind because of our work with CHAI on OptimizeARV.)

Some big parallels I observed yesterday:

NEGOTIATED INCENTIVES ARE NOT ENOUGH. Although the state of Maryland gives a 5% price preference for locally grown food, the Responsible Purchasing Network found that the broadline distributors operating in the state were not even aware of this advantage. This problem was more prevalent in global health a couple years ago, but countries are increasingly accessing globally negotiated ceiling prices for HIV drugs.

POOLED PURCHASING ISN’T YET WITHIN REACH. Sarah Fritschner of Louisville Farm to Table is a part of School Food Focus, a a group that brings together 30 of the largest school districts in the US to pool expertise and buying power to make school lunches healthier, more local, and more sustainable. We’re not yet to the point of inter-country exchanges and pooled purchasing in the global HIV treatment, but this is similarly on the horizon.

SUPPLY SIDE IS NOT THE PROBLEM. One of the hardest decisions that Haile Johnston had to make was stepping away from a school district that was not really interested in the nutrition agenda of Common Market. “Generating demand within institutions” is the hard part, he said, not managing supply side issues. We’re fortunate to be piggybacking OptimizeARV on CHAI’s ongoing work to get governments to buy into cost-effectiveness as a goal.

PROCUREMENT POLICY CAN SPUR DEMAND. A representative of the LA Food Policy Council described how a procurement policy change was needed to make LAUSD commit to “good food purchasing.” In HIV, it’s clear that procurement policy has been a powerful – but not always positive – tool for influencing access to treatment.

LEAVING CHOICE ON THE TABLE IS KEY. Anim Steel’s organization Real Food Generation encourages organizations like colleges to commit to purchase 20% “real food.” While they have a very clear definition of real food, they leave the choice of how to achieve that 20% target to the organizations. (Also worth noting that one of the major foodservice providers in the US has already has committed to doing 20% across the board.) CHAI has similarly encouraged countries to pursue cost-effectiveness, but is not in the business of dictating specific choices to countries. We’re working hard to preserve that framework of choice with OptimizeARV.

Aside from lessons that we may pull in to our OptimizeARV work, I had one big takeaway: we need to think less literally when translating innovations between global and domestic markets. There may be opportunities that link completely unrelated sectors.

(I already broke the 1000 character rule.)

JaspalSOCAP2013: Global HIV & US food systems, common challenges