Countering the commercial determinants of health: strategic challenges for public health

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A special issue of the Australian journal Public Health Research and Practice edited by Becky Freeman and Colin Sindall considers the ‘commercial determinants of health’ defined as the practices of corporations which produce and market unhealthy commodities such as tobacco, alcohol, soft drinks and processed food.  The limited regulatory control of these industries has contributed to their role in driving the growing global epidemic of noncommunicable disease. The papers in this issue help to further illuminate how the behaviour of these companies serves to undermine advances in chronic disease prevention.

The editors note that the public health voices calling for regulation or use of fiscal measures of fiscal measures often gain limited traction, notwithstanding the available evidence. Challenges for public health in this regard include the value placed by governments on the economic contribution of major companies and the jobs provided, industry lobbying power and the dominant media narrative, shared by many politicians, that regulation or taxation applied to specific industries or products constitutes unnecessary ‘nanny state’ interference in market dynamics or consumer choice.   The papers in this special issue provide important new insights on a number of these areas, in regard to corporate behaviour and relationships with government, media framing of issues and strategies to bring about change.  Articles in the special issue include:

Editorial: Countering the commercial determinants of health: strategic challenges for public health

Perspectives: Interview with Verity Firth: commercial interests and public health policy

Public health over private wealth: rebalancing public and private interests in international trade and investment agreements

Research: The revolving door between government and the alcohol, food and gambling industries in Australia

Talking about a nanny nation: investigating the rhetoric framing public health debate in  Australian news media

In Practice: Countering commercial interests: building advocacy campaigns to protect children from food marketing

Proliferation of ‘healthy’ alcohol products in Australia: implications for policy

Brief Reports: Philip Morris International’s use of Facebook to undermine Australian tobacco control laws

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