Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Head To Head

Should we welcome multinational companies’ involvement in programmes to improve child health?

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h3046 (Published 17 June 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h3046

Rapid Response:

Re: Should we welcome multinational companies’ involvement in programmes to improve child health?

I dare say that Prof. Nick made his comments in the best possible interest. But the ‘best interest of whom’?

1. Child obesity - If children survive their early years and go on to become ‘obese’, that’s a shame, but at least they survived!
a. How many children in Africa between 6yrs and 16yrs are ‘OBESE’. Not as many as western countries, I bet!!
2. Tax avoidance - Tell me how many ‘multinationals’ do NOT work hard at reducing their tax liability. Most employ armies of financial advisers, accountants and lawyers to help reduce their tax burden.
b. So, do we give up trying to save lives because multinationals are prudent, unlike governments?
3. Child LIFE – The most precious commodity we have is LIFE, and a child’s life is the most precious. We would all rather die and give our child the chance of life, so what if a multinational doesn’t pay it’s fair share of tax, so what if a multinational produces sugary drinks. We are talking LIFE over tax, profit and obesity. LIFE must come first! What the kids do with the ‘saved’ life later on in their lives, is up to them. What we can do is give them the chance or opportunity to make that choice or decision, which they don’t have when it comes to needlessly suffering from diarrhea.

The above are ‘red herrings’ - If we align with companies which produce sugary drinks and companies who, if legally possible avoid paying tax, so what! How many children’s lives will be saved, thus reducing the burdens of governments, tax payers, charities and other organisations. Sometimes we just have to ‘bite the bullet’.

Competing interests: No competing interests

23 June 2015
Bruce Johnston
Director
Lusaka Zambia