Leading up to ObesityWeek 2018, the Shared Value Initiative Publishes Case Study on Novo Nordisk’s Commitment to Transforming Obesity Care

Case study highlights how Novo Nordisk is working to change the narrative and harmful social norms around obesity in the U.S.
Nov 8, 2018 11:10 AM ET

Novo Nordisk: Shifting Harmful Norms around Obesity

BOSTON, November 8, 2018 /3BL Media/ – In a new case study, the Shared Value Initiative spotlights Novo Nordisk as a leading example of a company that has found a business opportunity in helping to solve a pressing social issue. The case study profiles how Novo Nordisk is partnering with the community to shift harmful norms around obesity; recognizing the unmet public health needs and taking a shared value approach, with a long-term goal to break through the many barriers that currently prevent effective obesity care in the United States.

Obesity is a major health issue that few pharmaceutical companies have attempted to address, even though the disease affects around four in 10 adult Americans. Every day across the country people living with obesity are met with prejudice, discrimination and a lack of compassion. Most health systems recognize the challenges of obesity and may officially classify it as a disease, but few healthcare professionals are trained in obesity management and, the disease is often not addressed, if at all, until related conditions, such as type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease, arise.

Insurance coverage for comprehensive solutions and tools remains limited and significant needs remain unmet, at a substantial cost to employers and government. The Milken Institute found the total U.S. costs for the treatment of health conditions related to obesity and excess weight totaled $1.72 trillion annually, including medical and indirect economic costs (such as loss of productivity and absenteeism).

Building on 90 years of driving change for people living with chronic diseases and a mission to discover, develop, and deliver better medicines, Novo Nordisk realized they were well placed to transform treatment for people living with obesity. Having spent more than two decades advancing global obesity research, the company has identified that transformation on multiple societal levels – including federal policy changes and subverting social norms that encourage stigmatization and promote obesity as a personal failing – will lead to meaningful shifts in the understanding and treatment of the disease.

“Our long-term commitment is to improve the lives of people with obesity by partnering with the community on education and advocacy, increasing access to care, and advancing medical management. Our Triple Bottom Line framework and focus on shared value ensures the company considers how all actions may impact people, communities and the environment – while doing what is best for the patient, and remaining fiscally responsible. With that in mind, I am excited that Novo Nordisk is collaborating to transform how the world views and treats this serious, chronic and progressive disease,” said Blandine Lacroix, Corporate Vice President, Obesity at Novo Nordisk.

Novo Nordisk is joining forces with several organizations to drive action around obesity as a disease, which could improve patient access to medical support and care, increase funding and coverage of tools and medications, alter public discourse around blame and bias, and encourage the U.S. health care system to deal with the social, environmental, and systemic causes of excess weight.

"Obesity is a disease space that is truly a social issue, and the reality is that not enough people are getting the care they deserve," said Kathy Lynch, Director of Global Partnerships at the Shared Value Initiative. "We saw that Novo Nordisk was truly committed to improving the lives of people with obesity using shared value as a driver for innovation and collaboration – and that a case study on the work they are doing in this area could help other organizations learn how to address this misunderstood and often overlooked disease, with key learnings applicable to other areas.”  

The key lesson for Novo Nordisk was realizing that stigma and misperceptions around obesity were affecting the beliefs and actions of all stakeholders in the obesity ecosystem. To change perceptions about obesity and make care happen would require an innovative, entrepreneurial approach, coupled with a real passion and a long-term commitment. It became clear that strong partnerships would be critical to creating shared value. The company is always open to exploring new collaborations, with a strong belief that by working together change is possible, and will lead to a much-needed paradigm shift in the treatment of obesity in the US.

About the Shared Value Initiative

The Shared Value Initiative is a global community of leaders who find business opportunities in social challenges. The Initiative connects practitioners in search of the most effective ways to implement shared value. Operated by FSG, with support from a network of strategic partners, the Initiative shapes this emerging field through peer-to-peer exchange, market intelligence, strategy & implementation support and shared value advocacy. Learn more at sharedvalue.org.