Global Health Blogs with Professor Swahn

Student Reflections on Topics Covered in our Class

Global Health Blogs with Professor Swahn

Commercial Determinants of Health: Have You Seen these Marketing Strategies?

September 15, 2020 · No Comments · CDoH, Uncategorized

Most of us have heard of Social Determinants of Health. But have you ever heard of Commercial Determinants of Health (CDoH)

If you haven’t, you’re not alone! The World Health Organization (WHO) defines CDoH as “factors that influence health which stem from the profit motive. Corporate activities shape our environments and determine the availability, promotion and pricing of consumables.” They are strategies used by corporations to sell their products for profit that are detrimental to our health and well-being.

We have all witnessed CDoH, but we probably didn’t play close attention to the ads we were looking at. Here are a couple of examples of what you’ve probably seen:

If you think these alcohol ads are aimed at women, you are correct! The advertisements aimed at women use ‘feminine’ colors, such as pink, and state that their alcoholic beverages are sweet and contain only a few calories to get us (women) to buy their product. As a result, more and more women are drinking and “narrowing the gender gap in drinking disorders.” Research shows that women could possibly be more vulnerable to alcohol because they are more susceptible to organ damage and achieve greater alcohol concentrations because women have less body water when compared to men. To include, women are also more susceptible to traffic crashes, trauma, and legal and interpersonal difficulties as a result of alcohol consumption. 

Moreover, more companies are using the COVID-19 pandemic to advertise unhealthy food. One example comes from Krispy Kreme; they have offered 1,500 free donuts to healthcare and essential or other frontline workers in a hospital in London.

This is a huge problem because many of the people who test positive for COVID-19 already have noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and are overweight. Having companies market their unhealthy foods is a terrible thing since people with NCDs are the ones who are experiencing the worst outcomes from this pandemic. Many people are already at high risk when it comes to COVID-19, and increasing the number of people who are at high risk is just going to result in worst consequences.

In public and global health, we want to decrease physical inactivity, tobacco and alcohol use, unhealthy diets and behaviors, but big companies and corporations who just want profit from consumers, make the job more difficult. I believe these are unethical tactics because their marketing is not designed for the benefit of the consumer, but for the benefit of the seller.

Another example of CDoH are tobacco products. In 2016, tobacco use decreased from 20.9% to 15.5% since 2005 (over the age of 18) – this is great news! Many people have stopped smoking and now, many places have banned smoking where it used to be permitted, such as school campuses. Even now, some bars and clubs have banned people from smoking inside their building. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that there are still about 38 million Americans who smoke (from 2016). 

Part of this could be from all the money spent on tobacco marketing:

  • In 2016, the five largest smokeless tobacco manufacturers spent $759.3 million on advertising and promotion. 
  • In addition, in 2018, companies spent $9.06 billion on advertising and promotion of cigarette and smokeless tobacco in the United States alone. 

Smoking has a negative health effect on individuals and can give people lung cancer and worsen other diseases. We have already seen the negative outcomes from COVID-19 patients; they are some of the vulnerable populations COVID-19 is really harming because tobacco “reduces lung capacity and increases the risk of many respiratory infections and can increase the severity of respiratory diseases.” Since COVID-19 is an infectious disease that primarily attacks the lungs, smoking can impair lung function and can make it more difficult for the body to fight off the infection.

Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) are considered social and economic conditions that influence the health of individuals. We can’t always change our SDoH since we are born with many of them, but we can change the way we react to CDoH. We can try to focus on our own healthy goals that improve our quality of life and our overall health. It may be hard to ignore ads (especially because there are ads everywhere we go and on every app and website imaginable), but if companies don’t change their marketing tactics, we should try to learn different ways to ignore their ads. Furthermore, the table below does a good job at proposing a research agenda when it comes to CDoH. 











The researchers in this article suggest conducting global research that addresses the role of companies and corporations and their role in influencing consumption. We also need to focus on research on political tactics and developing strategies for addressing the harmful influence of CDoH on consumers, especially among the vulnerable population.

It’s time for us, the consumers, to stop buying into these ads, as tempting as they may be, and focus on our health and well-being!



There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment

Skip to toolbar