Corporations and Health Watch Goes Back to School: 10 Ways to Bring the Health Impact of Business Practices into the Classroom

As faculty and students return to the classroom after leaving their summer jobs, social action projects, vacation houses, beaches or research projects, Corporations and Health Watch examines how public health programs can integrate information on the impact of business practices on health into teaching, research and service.

While a growing body of evidence documents that the practices of the tobacco, alcohol, food, firearms, automobile, pharmaceutical and other industries have a profound impact on health, many public health, nursing and medical programs and courses continue to focus on how to improve public health by changing individuals, communities and governments, rather than businesses.

Faculty and students who want to broaden their understanding of the role of corporations and business practices can use the Corporations and Health Watch website to design teaching, learning, research and practice experiences. These can expand the repertoire of public health researchers and practitioners who seek to promote social justice by tackling the social determinants of health. Listed below are 10 actions that can help your public health, nursing or medical education program to address this neglected influence on population health, health inequalities and social determinants of health.

1.  Develop a lecture on corporate practices for the public health core courses.

  • For some relevant slide shows, visit here.
  • For documentaries and films to show in class visit here.
  • For tips on introducing corporate practices issues into public health core courses, visit here.

2.  Assign students to monitor marketing, product design, or retail practices as well as lobbying, campaign contributions and sponsored scientific research of a specific industry for a semester and report on their findings to class.

  • Some useful resources: The Influence Explorer at the Sunlight Foundation
  • For a description of an undergraduate class project visit here.
  • For introductions to doing research on corporations visit here and here and here.

3.  Develop and teach a new course on business practices and health.

4. Organize field placements at advocacy organizations that monitor corporate practices or organize advocacy campaigns to change alcohol, tobacco or food industry practices.

5. Organize an event on role of food industry on Food Day, a national event being led by Center for Science in the Public Interest.

6. Assign or write a research paper on the health impact of a product, practice or industry.

  • For a sample profile of McDonalds visit here.
  • For relevant resources, visit here.

7. Organize a faculty seminar that includes researchers from public health, marketing, sociology, business, law and other disciplines to explore areas of common interest.

8. Organize a student group on campus to study and take action to reduce harmful business influences on health.

9. Offer to assist your local or state health department to conduct research on activities of alcohol, tobacco and food industries in your jurisdiction in order to inform public health activities to counter harmful practices of these industries.

10.  Support or organize a student group to investigate business practice of campus food service, vending machine contractor or university endowment fund.

  • For an example visit here.

These are only a few ideas to get students and faculty started.  Have an experience to share?  Send it to us ( and subscribe to our free monthly e-newsletter.
Image Credits:

1.     Velkr0 via Flickr

2.     OSU Archives via Flickr