Corporations and Health at the 2012 APHA Meeting in San Francisco

The American Public Health Association will meet from October 27 -31 in San Francisco, California, drawing about 13,000 health professionals and advocates from around the country and the world.  Several sessions, some listed below, listed below, take up questions on the health impact of corporations.  Presentations given by CHW writers are marked below with *.  The session links provide additional details and the APHA Annual Meeting Program lists other sessions on corporations and health in a searchable program. 


APHA Meeting Sites


Session 255412:  “The Big Why”: A tobacco product manufacturer’s failed search for corporate social value   

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 : 10:30 AM – 10:50 AM

Participants: Ruth Malone,Patricia McDaniel

Tobacco company corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives function as tobacco marketing, inhibit effective tobacco control, and constitute efforts to normalize tobacco companies. When even tobacco executives struggle to define their company’s social value, it signals a social shift: an opening to advocate for supply-side changes appropriate to the scale of the tobacco disease epidemic and consistent with authentic social value.


Session 260757: Corporate shaping of basic public health definitions including disease entities and primary prevention  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 : 4:50 PM – 5:10 PM

Participant:  Beatrice Manning

This presentation uses existing research on relatively new diseases, such as osteopenia and hypercholesteremia, to document how the web of corporate interests shapes the most basic definitions of health, illness and primary prevention. It will then explicate how these definitional strategies are used by the three major corporate sectors (big pharma, medical equipment companies and private health insurers) within health care to leverage public payment programs to the maximum.


Session 2609.17: How the news media frames the debate over alcohol taxes  

Monday, October 29, 2012

Participants:  Samantha Cukier, Rebecca Reynolds-Ramirez, Katherine Clegg Smith, David H. Jernigan*

The news media play a powerful role in framing public debate over alcohol policies. We report the findings of a content analysis of press coverage of successful efforts to increase alcohol taxes in three states between 2009 and 2011: Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts. From a purposive sample of six key newspapers in each state, the research team collected more than 600 relevant articles, letters to the editor and editorials that appeared over a two-year period surrounding the passage of the tax increase. We coded each article on 32 different variables, including mentions of public health research in support of the increase, and key arguments utilized and values conveyed by both proponents and opponents. We will summarize the findings of these content analyses, elucidating how competing frames were constructed in public discussions about alcohol taxes, and drawing out implications for public health practice in the specific arena of alcohol taxation as well as more generally in public health applications of the principles and techniques of media advocacy.


Session 262296: Trading Away Health: The Case of Global Tobacco Control

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 : 4:34 PM – 4:48 PM

Participants: Sohil R. Sud, Joseph E. Brenner, Ellen R. Shaffer

Tobacco corporations are suing governments around the world, claiming that regulations on tobacco marketing practices are violations of international trade agreements. Little is known within the healthcare community about these lawsuits and their potential to derail efforts to reduce tobacco consumption.


Session 270317: Global Trade and Health Activism: A Report from the People’s Health Assembly Monday, October 29, 2012 : 3:16 PM – 3:30 PM

Participants:  Shelley K. White, Jonathan White

The third People’s Health Assembly in July 2012, brought together health activists from around the world  to discuss trade and health. This paper provides a brief history of global trade and health activism, highlighting traditional obstacles facing such transnational health-based social movements. It will then report on the trade-focused activities of the PHA3 meeting, and will outline the common organizing principles and goals identified for coordinating global trade and health activism.


Session 270558: Tobacco industry, regional trade agreements and tobacco control in Sub-Saharan Africa Tuesday, October 30, 2012 : 5:16 PM – 5:30 PM

Participants:  Hadii M. Mamudu, Eric Crosbie, Sreenivas P. Veeranki,

Over 80% of estimated global deaths from tobacco-induced diseases by 2030 are expected to occur in low- and medium-income countries, where tobacco industry has aggressively penetrated new markets. We used mixed-methods approach to assess the impact of regional trade agreements (RTAs) in Africa on cigarette sales and analyze how tobacco industry used these RTAs to expand operations and undermine tobacco control.


Session 3167.0: Snack Food and Beverage Industry and Global Non-communicable Chronic Disease  Monday, October 29, 2012: 10:30 – 12:00

Participants: William H. Wiist*, Sanjay Basu, Marion Nestle, Michele Simon*, Jennifer L. Pomeranz*

Worldwide more than 30 million people die each year from chronic disease. By 2030, chronic disease will cause 59% of deaths (more than 37 million deaths per year). The major behavioral risk factors are tobacco, unhealthful diet, physical inactivity and alcohol. The choices people make to eat poorly, drink dangerously, and not exercise are shaped by the world around them. Those choices are strongly influenced by the vested interests of corporations that lobby for policies to support unhealthful products, and develop, promote and sell unhealthful products. Marketing and sale of these products are increasingly promoted around the world in poor countries where chronic disease rates are increasing faster than in rich countries. This session will focus on the “fast food” food and beverage industry which produces and markets processed foods containing ingredients shown by research to be unhealthful.


Session 3205.0: Public Health Harms from Legal Products: Challenges of Countering Industry Influence in Alcohol, Tobacco, Prescription Drugs, and Food in the US 

Monday, October 29, 2012: 12:30 -2:00

Participants: Linda M. Bosma, Michele Simon*, Sarah Mart, Ruth Malone

Numerous legal products available in the United States are associated with public health problems and costs. Tobacco, alcohol, prescription drugs, and food all are available legally, but also have significant costs associated with health and public health harms. These substances are well represented in US regulatory and law-making systems, often to a much greater degree than public health advocates or researchers are able to be. This session will look at current challenges faced by the public health field, examine issues related to regulation and the legal environment, and present solutions that some local governments are exploring. Common issues and strategies across these products will be presented. The opportunity for discussion will help enrich the presentation.


Session 3312.0: The Epidemiologic Cascade: Identifying Multiple Sites for Policy Intervention Monday, October 29, 2012: 2:30 PM – 4:00 PM

Participants:  René I. Jahiel, William Wiist

Epidemiologic cascade: Concept and application to industrial corporations; Defining drinking problems in the UK as a corporation-induced disorder: Theoretical and public health implications


Session 3379.0:  Public Health Strategies to Address Trade and Trade Policy

Monday, October 29, 2012: 2:30 PM – 4:00 PM

Participants:  Peter Maybarduk, Burcu Kilic, Donald Zeigler, Joshua Yang, Shelley K. White, Jonathan White, Timothy Mackey

This session focuses on public health strategies to protect public health within trade and trade agreements.


Session 5181.0: Food, Fairness and Health II: Occupy Agriculture – Corporate Power, Equity and the Food System

Wednesday, October 31, 2012: 12:30 -2:00

Participants:  Steve Wing, Lisa Bero, Elena O. Linga, Tyrone Hayes, Michele Simon*

To equip public health professionals with an awareness of the fact of corporate influence, as well as the specific strategies employed by corporations, so as to better inform public health practice and advocacy around healthy food and just food systems. Public health depends in part on healthy food, and clean air and water in the environments where agriculture occurs. Science and public policies supporting these preconditions for public health, can run directly contrary to the aims of corporations mandated by their corporate charters to maximize profits and shareholder return — and not to promote public health. As a nation, we do enjoy environmental health and safety regulations on the books that exist to protect the public’s health interests. Agribusiness influence on these processes, however, can weaken regulation and enforcement. Compounding the problem of regulatory capture is the fact that corporations also influence research universities and non-profit organizations relied upon to create the scientific bases for public health policy can also be influenced by corporations. Corporate power and influence often lie on the other side of that unhealthy divide from communities of color. Cooptation of the public health profession by a corporate-government alliance undermines our ability to contribute to the basic goals of public health. To change this, public health must develop closer ties to movements for environmental justice and for food justice.