Do Food Company Corporate Responsibility Initiatives Contribute to Promotion of Unhealthy Food to Children?

A new report in BMC Public Health  examines the physical activity and nutrition-related corporate social responsibility initiatives of food and beverage companies in Canada and their implications for exposing children to unhealthy food messages. Based on a review of documents and websites of 39 large Canadian  food companies, Ariana Kent Guo and her colleagues at the School of Public Health and Epidemiology at the University of Ottawa concluded that food companies, including many that largely sell and market unhealthy products, are heavily involved in physical activity and nutrition-related CSR initiatives in Canada, many of which are targeted to children.  The authors recommend that government policies aimed at protecting children from unhealthy food marketing should consider including CSR initiatives that expose children to food company branding.

COVID-19, Capitalism and Public Health: What are the connections? Part 3

The Consequences of Neoliberalism in the Current Pandemic

In the International Journal of Health Services, Vicente Navarro analyzes how neoliberal policies, imposed by many governments on both sides of the North Atlantic, weakened the capacity of the response to the coronavirus pandemic in Italy, Spain, and the United States. Another report,  COVID-19 Exposes the Destructive Legacy of Neoliberalism, prepared by the European United Left/Nordic Green Left is  also available. Read more

The COVID-19 Corporate Response Tracker: How America’s Largest Employers Are Treating Stakeholders Amid the Coronavirus Crisis

The coronavirus and economic crises have created an opportunity for CEOs and corporate leaders to put purpose-driven leadership and stakeholder capitalism into practice. In the last few years, many corporate leaders have urged a move from shareholder capitalism to stakeholder capitalism.  Just Capital created this Tracker – starting with America’s 100 largest public employers – to help assess what’s happening on the ground. Read more

How Capitalism and Racism Hold Back a COVID-19 Cure

COVID-19 has swept the world without any proven treatment or vaccine, writes Neal Sweeney in Liberation.  Around 100 potential vaccines and 250 antiviral drugs are undergoing testing, but it is not clear when these will be approved for human use. While the realities of vaccine development are undeniable — vaccines are extensively tested before proven both effective and safe — much of the blame lies with capitalism.  Read more

Continue reading COVID-19, Capitalism and Public Health: What are the connections? Part 3

Predatory Marketing of Unhealthy Food Contributes to Disparate Impact of COVID-19 on Communities of Color

Several new studies point to obesity itself as a significant risk factor for being hospitalized with COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Young adults with obesity appear to be at particular risk, studies show. One way that the food industry has contributed to high rates of obesity and diet-related diseases among vulnerable populations is by targeted and predatory marketing of obesogenic products to vulnerable populations

Continue reading Predatory Marketing of Unhealthy Food Contributes to Disparate Impact of COVID-19 on Communities of Color

Progressive Public Health Organizations Respond to COVID-19

Around the world, public health and social justice activists are responding to the epidemic in ways that meet immediate needs but also strengthen movements that can create alternatives to the economic and social policies that contributed to the spread of the coronavirus.  Here are three such efforts:

Mapping Business Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic

The NCD Alliance(NCDA) and the SPECTRUM research consortium collaborated to conduct an online survey. The aim of the survey is to collect examples of activities undertaken or presented by businesses as a response to the COVID-19 crisis. Read more

Health Equity Policy Platform for COVID-19 Response and Recovery

Human Impact Partners  releases  a cross-sector policy platform that, if implemented, could begin to protect the people and communities bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more

People’s Health Movement Chapters Respond to COVID-19

The People’s  Health Movement,  a global network that brings together grassroots health activists, civil society organizations and academic institutions from around the world, has posted 16 statements from People’s Health Movement chapters around the world, analyzing the social determinants of COVID-19 in their nation, suggesting actions to mitigate its impact, and calling for governments to act.  Read more

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COVID-19, Capitalism and Public Health: What are the connections?

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Note to readers: After a pause of several months, Corporations and Health Watch returns to its previous schedule of regular postings and monthly newsletters. A few new features  have been added: the web site is modestly re-designed to make it easier to read and navigate. Also, in addition to the usual coverage of the food, alcohol, tobacco, automobile, firearms, and pharmaceutical industries, two new themes have been added. The first, addressed in today’s post, is to explore the intersections between the COVID-19 pandemic, on the one hand,  and 21st century capitalism and the health of the public on the other. The second is a deeper exploration of how modern capitalism influences people’s search for well-being and the resistance and alternatives that social movements, health professionals, communities,  and others are creating to impact daily lives dominated by corporations. These are topics I examine in my new book At What Cost Modern Capitalism and the Future of Health to be published by Oxford University Press in early 2021.

As the COVID-19 pandemic dominates and disrupts the lives of billions of people around the world, public health professionals and activists need to combine two essential tasks. On the one hand, we need to contain the epidemic, predict its  path , and respond to the needs of those affected by the virus. Equally essential,  we need to understand the roots of the pandemic in the global political and economic system, its impact on that system, and the opportunities the crisis  presents for more fundamental transformations of a world characterized by inequality, ill health and missed potential.To contribute to such analyses, for the next several months,  Corporations and Health Watch will take on the limited role of serving as a collecting point for published articles, blog posts, and commentary on the intersections among the COVID-19 epidemic, 21st century capitalism and public health. To begin, I will offer brief comments, aggregate, and post  previously published materials that address this intersection. Since many others are aggregating and commenting on new developments in science, resources to assist communities and institutions to respond, and tracking country responses, this site will not duplicate that work. Please send suggestions for posting  that address this intersection to corporationsandhealth@gmail.com

Changes in 21st century capitalism are one cause of the rapid spread of COVID-19 around the world. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic  is now a cause of additional pressures on capitalism. Understanding these complex reciprocal relationships is an urgent task for both public health professionals who seek to mitigate the adverse consequences of the epidemic and for social movements and  activists who seek to advance social justice, equity, and human and planetary health. In this post, I sketch some of these relationships and raise questions that require additional investigation and public conversations.

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Affordability of the EAT–Lancet reference diet: a global analysis

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In a report earlier this year, the EAT–Lancet Commission used available nutritional and environmental evidence to propose  a diet capable of sustaining health and protecting the planet, but it did not assess dietary affordability.  A new study in  Lancet Global Health used food price and household income data to estimate affordability of EAT–Lancet benchmark diets, as a first step to guiding interventions to improve diets around the world. 

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188 Experts call on UN Human Rights Commission and WHO to develop guidelines on proper roles for market forces in healthy diets and sustainable food systems

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In a letter  in BMJ signed by 188 food and health experts from 38 countries called on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, and the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Ghebreyesus, to initiate an inclusive process to develop guidelines on human rights, healthy diets and sustainable food systems. The letter notes, “As we approach the midpoint in the UN Decade on Nutrition, the status quo is untenable and bold actions are needed.

Continue reading 188 Experts call on UN Human Rights Commission and WHO to develop guidelines on proper roles for market forces in healthy diets and sustainable food systems

Beyond the Sacklers: Free-trade policies contributed to the opioid epidemic

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In a commentary in STAT and a scientific report in SSM-Population Health, Adam Dean and Simeon Kimmel explore the connections between the opioid epidemic and free trade agreements.  They argue that the trade crisis and the opioid crisis feed on each other. Economists have explained how free trade lowers wages and employment levels for less-educated manufacturing workers in the U.S. Relatively good jobs with high wages and benefits are disappearing, while factory closings damage the social fabric of their surrounding communities.

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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.

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