Why corporate power is a public health priorityBMJ 2012; 345 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e5124 (Published 21 August 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e5124
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Correction to the address for Ecole Libre des Hautes Etudes in citation #12. The current address is: 2600 Netherland Avenue (#1605) Riverdale, Bronx, New York 10463-4818.
Competing interests: No competing interests
For some reason GH overlooked the contributions of the UK Companies Act of 2006 which broadens Director responsibilities to a wider set of stakeholders than just the shareholders and his article fails to mention the international standard for social responsibility ISO 26000.
Marketing determines the needs of customers but this noble profession is blamed for harmful consumption instead of the true culprit: unscrupulous advertising.
Let us continue this important debate by reference to the existing tools to modify damaging behavior and to diagnose the causes to be excised with surgical precision.
Competing interests: Developer of organizational management systems to enable clients to help create more successful customers
Erudite and comprehensive article. We need champions like Dr. Hastings. As doctors we need to lead by example with modesty of lifestyle to show we are not victims/perpetrators of corporate greed.
Competing interests: I would like my children to live in a fairer world.
It was gratifying to see that Dr. Gerard Hastings (Why Corporate Power is a Public Health Priority; BMJ 2012; 345:e5124) called for a broadening of public health’s focus beyond concerns about marketing, tobacco and individual behavior. There are others in public health, for example, in food and nutrition 1, 2 noncommunicable chronic disease 3 who have also taken this perspective. Others have raised the issue of the wide-spread and multi-faceted means of corporate influence on public health 4 and the need for a framework for a public health that focuses on corporations 5, 6. Hastings’ suggestion that public health move away from a narrow, technocratic focus to a broader macroeconomic participation that emphasizes the direction of capitalism and the implications of business is of critically important and foundational 7. His “ambitious pitch” that public health revitalize its upstream, political functions is welcome support for the concern in the U.S.A. of the political power of corporations 8,9. The influence and power of corporations transcends geopolitical borders (for example, through trade agreements 10) to the extent that corporations have become global governing agencies and as institutional social determinants11. Thus, it is important that public health professionals in every country network around our shared interests in addressing the influence and power of corporations 12, 13. We must build coalitions and join forces with others inside and outside the public health profession 14, 15, 16 to work together to build a strong, sustainable, and effective global movement that will reclaim public health and democracy from the vested singular interest of private corporate profits.
1. Nestle, M. Food politics: How the food industry influences nutrition and health. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002.
2. Stuckler D, Nestle, M. Big food, food systems, and global health. PLoS Med. 2012 June; 9(6): e1001242. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001242
Stuckler D, Siegel K. (eds). Sick societies: responding to the global challenge of chronic disease. UK: Oxford University Press, 2011.
4. Wiist WH (ed). The bottom line or public health: tactics corporations
use to influence health and health policy and what we can do to counter them. NY:
Oxford University Press, 2010.
5. Jahiel RI. Corporation-induced diseases, upstream epidemiologic surveillance, and urban health. J Urban Health 2008; 85(4):517-31.
6. Wiist WH. The corporate play book, health, and democracy: The snack food and beverage industry’s tactics in context. In Stuckler, D., & Siegel, K. (Eds). Sick Societies: Responding to the Global Challenge of Chronic Disease. UK: Oxford University Press, 2011.
7. Brezis M, Wiist WH. Vulnerability of health to market forces. Medical Care 2011; 49(3): 232-239.
8. Rutkow L, Vernick JS, Teret SP. The potential health effects of Citizens United. N Engl J Med 2010; 362(15):1356-1358.
9. Wiist WH. Citizens United, public health and democracy: The Supreme Court ruling, its implications, and proposed action. American Journal of Public Health 2011; 101:1172-1197.
10. Shaffer ER, Waitzkin H, Brenner J, Jasso-Aguilar R. Global trade and health. American Journal of Public Health 2005; 95 (1): 23-34.
11. Wiist WH. Corporations as global governing agencies: Influence on public health and democracy. Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association; Washington, D.C. October 31, 2011.
12. Jahiel R., President, Ecole Libre des Hautes Etudes. Public Health Study Group: Social Epidemiology and Industrial Diseases. P.O. Box 921, NY, NY, 10021.
13. People’s Health Movement. (2000). The people’s health charter. http://www.phmovement.org/sites/www.phmovement.org/files/phm-pch-english...
14. Wiist WH. Public health and the anticorporate movement: Rationale and
recommendations. Am J Public Health. 2006; 96(8):1370-1375.
15. Hawken P. Blessed unrest: how the largest movement in the world came into
being and why no one saw it coming. NY: Penquin; 2007.
16. World Social Forum http://fsm2011.org/
Competing interests: Editor of a book published by Oxford University Press.
Corporate power is a reality that dominates and determines all policies whether public or private. Public health a concern for all government is linked to its economic policy. Corporate vision is therefore a dollar vision aiming mostly on the balance sheet that presents itself to the board that governs. The greatest concerns of public harm are alcohol, tobacco and fast food. They are also the most money-spinning industries and therefore become the most influential lobbies for the government to be formed or sustained. Democracies are run by these corporates along with corporate pharmaceutical industries and corporate hospitals. Common man therefore stands sandwiched between the two, one tempts him to harm his health and the other to provide medical assistance. Therefore common man must know his concern that will help him evolve a government that will cater to his real public health concerns rather than become a victim to corporate power. In short money power is corporate power that haunts public health. Primary health care therefore always takes a back seat and tertiary care become the focus of attention for corporates to invest. Poverty remains the most potent virus that harms public health. How that will attract the attention of corporate power remains to be seen though in the name of charity many start foundation say like AIDS foundation to attract public attention.
Competing interests: No competing interests
This welcome analysis showcases the growing recognition of society's need for a doctor. And what better a doctor, than the emergence of a united global public health front. A group of visionaries applying the discipline of quality research to making real improvements to the lives of all.
Such vision, as presented in this article, comes at an opportune moment in the UK, with the movement of public health services into the local authority. Public health professionals at all levels have a real opportunity to champion the specialty into a role of real influence. A role to re-focus the nation's direction toward providing health and happiness to all and to realign the nations leadership with the principles of duty and integrity in serving the people.
Real change will potentially require core reform of the political system and a reduction in the amount of leverage money has in influencing policy. Recent events such as the Arab Spring and the Kony 2012 campaign have highlighted how possible this is, especially when new media is combined with the collective will of the people. There really is no time like the present for change to begin.
Competing interests: No competing interests
The issues discussed in the article are very important, and probably open up the most important public health debate of modern times. Going or gone are the traditional public health threats; the ones that Professor Hastings outlines are the most pressing and current ones and the worst because they have remained hidden for such a long time. This hidden anti-public health agenda of big business is partly accidental (business is not concerned with public health so why should it take an interest) but partly deliberate (if industry accepts any blame, it might have to compensate society and modify its behaviour).
But public health has not, in the past, flinched from addressing public health threats from any consideration of the agent responsible: no-one pulled their punches against pathogens out of sympathy for the organisms. We shouldn't be reticent now. But it would be foolish to assume that governments, commerce, the public etc will beleve us or back counter activity. But that never stopped committed public health professionals and their organised efforts in the past.
Competing interests: I am a public health professional who has worked closely with the lead author and we have worked on these issues for many years.