Every country is affected by some form of malnutrition. Some governments and nutrition experts look to public-private partnerships (PPPs) to address the burden of malnutrition. However, nutrition-related PPPs face opposition, are difficult to form, and there is limited evidence of their effectiveness. We conducted a literature review and 30 semi-structured interviews with individuals involved in or researching nutrition-related PPPs to identify the factors that shape their creation and effectiveness in food systems. In conclusion, if effective nutrition-related PPPs are to be established, private sector conflicts of interest must be addressed, trust deficits between private and public sector actors must be surmounted, and evidence must be assessed as to whether PPPs can achieve more for public health nutrition than private and public sector actors working separately.
- Policy-makers should decide if a partnership with private sector is warranted and if so, that there is sufficient causal pathways to impact, strong governance mechanisms, and no conflicts of interest between actors of the partnership.
- If policy-makers are to partner with private sector, the architecture of the engagement needs to be transparent, open, and inclusive with a main goal to improve public health nutrition.
- Putting in place robust accountability mechanisms within established public-private partnerships (PPPs) will be critical for governments so that they can steward, monitor and incentivize private sector actors to work towards promoting healthy diets and nutrition within food systems.