Health Promotion: Practice What You Preach

04/07/2011 03:40 pm ET | Updated Jun 07, 2011

Al Gore has famously -- or, if your world view differs, infamously -- made personal investments in companies advancing the "green economy" agenda for which he has long been an ardent champion. This has prompted some to levy charges of conflicted interest against him -- to contend that he is, in fact, espousing such causes as green energy for personal gain.

But such charges resonate with truth only in a parallel universe (impervious, presumably, to human-induced climate change) where effects precede causes. Because it is a matter of public record that Gore was advocating for a green economy long before he made any such investments; long before, in fact, there were many relevant companies in which to make such investments. He applied his mouth to the issue long before his money.

And then ... he put his money where his mouth was. He practiced what he was preaching.

Aren't we supposed to do just that?

I strive to make my own health promotion efforts fully in the public domain whenever possible
. Much of what I do is freely available to all, and provides no profit for me, or anyone involved.

But there are times when the only expedient way to advance the mission is via public/private, academic/business partnerships. And then, inevitably, there is money in play.

But in our still-capitalistic-last-time-I-checked society, is it, in fact, a "conflict" to become personally and financially involved in the very things we are telling people they should become personally and financially involved in? Isn't doing otherwise a failure to practice what we preach, hinting at hypocrisy?

There are, to be sure, many opportunities for true conflicts of interest in the world of business; and the entire domain of opportunity is rife with slippery slopes. But as long as honest means are applied to honorable ends, where is the conflict? Are we opposed to doing well by doing good? If so, I never got that memo. If one invests personally in a cause one has long championed, does it not make one's interests more confluent?

The issue comes up often as a tacit debate among academics about degrees of purity. So I thought this was grist deserving of the kind of diligent milling only the Huffington Post can provide!

What do you think: conflict, or confluence of interests for mouths and money, practice and preaching to align in health promotion, as in other endeavors? I look forward to comments.


Dr. David L. Katz;