Sunday, July 14, 2024

Commercial determinants of health – World Health Organization (WHO)



The social determinants of health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, the systems put in place to deal with illness, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life. These forces and systems include economic policies and systems, development agendas, social norms, social policies and political systems. Social determinants of health matter because addressing them not only helps prevents illness, but also promotes healthy lives and societal equity.

Commercial determinants of health are a key social determinant, and refer to the conditions, actions and omissions by commercial actors that affect health. Commercial determinants arise in the context of the provision of goods or services for payment and include commercial activities, as well as the environment in which commerce takes place. They can have beneficial or detrimental impacts on health.
Commercial activities shape the physical and social environments in which people are born, grow, work, live and age – both positively and negatively. 
For example:
However, there are positive contributions by to public health, for example when companies implement the following health interventions:
The workplace also functions as a setting of health promotion and protection against harm, allowing following:
Commercial determinants often disproportionately affect countries and populations that are not profiting from the product or service that causes harm to health or planet, but instead are faced with the burdens of these harms. As a result, they shape health equities, both within and between countries.
Commercial determinants also contribute to other factors that shape health and health equities through broader economic systems and economic determinants. This includes through economic development or trade policies, broader social, economic and political systems, and finance or investment flows. Examples include:income level
Countries with commodity-dependent economies are especially vulnerable, such as Small Island Developing States and least developed countries. They face greater pressure from industry due, for example, to greater employer status or multinational trading agreements.
Recent decades have seen a transfer of resources to private enterprise, which now plays an increasing role in public health policy and regulation and outcomes. The emergence of non-State actors in the geopolitical arena, together with a shift in global governance, are fundamental to understanding the development of commercial determinants of health. Various authors have catalogued pathways of private sector health strategies and impact, including influencing the political environment, the knowledge environment and preference shaping.
There are multiple pathways that commercial actors influence health policy. Companies commonly influence public health through lobbying and party donations. This incentivizes politicians and political parties to align decisions with commercial agendas. Further, some commercial actors work to capture branches of government in order to prevent or weaken regulation of their products and services, leading to unregulated activity, limiting their liability and bypassing the threat of litigation and pre-emption.
To further shape preferences, some companies capture civil society by founding or funding front groups, consumer groups and think tanks, allowing them to manufacture doubt and promote their framings.
Partnering with civil society, adopting so-called best buy strategies and conflict of interest policies and supporting safe spaces for discussions with industry are all examples of how countries can address the commercial determinants of health.
More research is needed on the health equity dimensions of commercial determinants of health as well as governance considerations, including transparency and accountability, in addition to state capabilities to avoid corruption and steer private sector engagements. 
There are clear opportunities to move forward on the commercial determinants, particularly in better understanding and addressing the conflicts of interest but also potential co-benefits of private sector action for better health, at global, national and local levels.
The role for transformative partnerships and approaches to achieve the ambitious global health goals was already recognized by the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development but has been brought to the forefront by COVID-19, with increasing attention on the role the private sector plays in health outcomes both within academia and from civil society. This has led to increased scrutiny on the role of the private sector in health and health equity, as well as increasing initiatives within the private sector itself to position itself as a partner.   
Examples of actions governments around the world are taking to address commercial determinants to improve public health include:
WHO addresses the wider economic factors impacting on health and health equity, including through workstreams on trade and health, as well as health and development. The WHO Council on the Economics of Health for All has elaborating several opportunities to rethink how value in health and wellbeing is measured, produced, and distributed across the economy. WHO also promotes the use fiscal instruments including taxation policies to invest in and improve health outcomes.
Private sector engagement is also addressed through different streams of work, including through the Advisory Group on the Governance of the Private Sector for Universal Health Coverage, as well as through programmatic and treaty approaches such as WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
WHO has initiated a new programme of action, the Economic and Commercial Determinants of Health, which has four goals: to strengthen the evidence base; develop tools and capacity to address the commercial determinants; convene partnerships and dialogue; and raise awareness and advocacy.
Related health topics:
Fact sheets
Feature stories


Leave a Response