In the April 2021 issue of Dietetics Today, in-house dietitian Sammie Gill from Symprove Ltd wrote about her role which includes conversations on the latest research, recommendations for clinical practice and sign off on regulatory issues.
She firmly believes that dietitians should be the profession leading the way in this area and be at the forefront of educating other healthcare professionals, as well as the public. In the article, Sammie echoed what we hear from healthcare professionals in other businesses: that it’s paramount that companies like Symprove Ltd should be developing partnerships with organisations such as the British Dietetic Association (BDA), considering the influence of dietitians and the importance of dietitians working collaboratively with the food industry.
This article demonstrated how some BDA members are working within food and supplement companies as technical specialists to influence both their communications and R&D activities, but how did we assess Symprove Ltd's application for membership and why does the BDA think corporate membership is important?
Here, we outline how we are working with this specific company, but also the general principles behind our processes.
An annual corporate membership with the BDA is for organisations who work with the BDA more strategically and want to demonstrate support for the profession. These relationships also publicly acknowledge the role which external organisations play in helping the BDA to achieve its aims and the delivery of our strategic plan.
Specifically, we link corporate membership to the delivery of the “Leading the profession” priority in our strategic plan which identifies a goal to “work with organisations, which promote sound, evidence-based messages on food, nutrition, health and wellbeing”.
The BDA asks two things of our corporate members: that they show commitment to evidence based nutrition communications and the sustainability of the profession, and that they are open to two-way dialogue with the BDA office and our members - via active insight work.
Our robust assessment process for partnerships produces a wide discussion around a potential partner. As well as the products, we take an in-depth look at their advertising and social media, their research and their business practices to ensure a good fit with our organisational and brand values.
We even look at Trust Pilot comments, any ASA rulings, their company accounts and their sustainability commitments.
Our partnerships team summarise this within an assessment document and then each partnership is managed through our ‘Guidelines for Working with Commercial companies’ process. If an application is successful – and some are not – we produce an information sheet for each corporate member on our web pages.
Coming back to this example, for Symprove Ltd we commented specifically positively on:
- Their ongoing clinical trials with credible organisations and the publication of these on their HCP website.
- The quality of their educational information for dietitians on a broad range of practice issues, with peer review and frequent BDA CPD endorsement applications.
- They employ two dietitians and we saw identified a commitment to providing responsible communications to customers.
However, as the article from Sammie Gill also outlined, specific probiotic recommendations for many common gut disorders and complaints are not yet possible, despite the field moving very fast. In addition, the cost of this particular product may mean that some people who could benefit would not be able to access them and has the potential to widen health inequalities.
We further noted that the product must be used alongside a healthy, balanced diet and / or advice from a dietitian for effectiveness. These areas inform our work going forward.
Hopefully this outline helps you to better understand the BDA’s approach to assessing and starting a new corporate membership relationship.
If you’re a dietitian working in a food, medical nutrition or tech business, and you would like to find out more about working in partnership with the BDA, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Partnerships Manager, British Dietetic Association