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.

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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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Civil society action against transnational corporations: implications for health promotion

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Transnational corporations (TNCs) shape population health both positively and negatively through their national and international social, political and economic power and influence; and are a vital commercial determinant of health. In an articlein Health Promotion International, Julia Anaf and colleagues discuss the unequal power relations existing between TNCs that promote their own financial interests, and activists and advocates who support population and environmental health by challenging corporate power. 

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Big tobacco focuses on the facts to hide the truth

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Donald J. Cohn of Webster & Sheffield, a cigarette manufacturer’s counsel, is shown  speaking to the jury in Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Inc., 683 F.Supp. 1487 (1988), in U.S. District Court D in New Jersey by Marilyn Church.  Source.

The language used by attorneys in tobacco litigation reveals key elements of the strategies deployed by cigarette makers and their courtroom opponents.  In a new article in Tobacco Control, Risi and Proctor use methods from computational linguistics to identify differences in the rhetorical strategies deployed by defense versus plaintiffs’ lawyers in cigarette litigation. 

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David Sanders: Activist, Teacher, Scholar and Public Health Practitioner

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David Sanders 1945-2019

Professor David Sanders , an activist, scholar, colleague, mentor, role model and friend to health activists around the world passed away in Wales on 30th August after a heart attack. David was a founding member of the People’s Health Movement in 2000 and the co-chair of PHM for the past six years. A pediatrician by qualification, David was very much interested in the issues of public health. He went on to head the School of Public Health at University of Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa from its inception in 1993 till 2009.

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JOIN TO RECLAIM PEOPLES RIGHTS OVER INVESTORS AND CORPORATE PROFITS AND IMPUNITY

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Neoliberal globalization has opened the doors for the savage exploitation of the world by the big economic powers. Megaprojects, agribusiness and militarization, among other processes, express a patriarchal, neoliberal and racist system that amounts to an assault  on life as such. As a result, peoples’ rights have been systematically violated, the Earth and its resources destroyed, pillaged and contaminated, while corporations continue committing economic and ecological crimes with total impunity. They also throw us into an environmental and climate crisis of unknown proportions, for which they do not take responsibility.

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