Global Health Blogs with Professor Swahn

Student Reflections on Topics Covered in our Class

Global Health Blogs with Professor Swahn

Commercial Determinants of Health: Applying a Systematic Approach for Better Health

September 26, 2020 · No Comments · CDoH, Uncategorized

Commercial Determinants of Health


What are CDoH?

Commercial determinants of health are under a huge umbrella of contributors to our health. It is the private sector’s overall effects on community health. These effects are often negative as they are created with profit in mind rather than well being of consumers. The obvious type of corporations that come to mind are those that directly sell unhealthy and nutrition poor foods. These are fast foods, soft drinks, high sugar snacks and even products marketed in healthy ways like juices. What doesn’t come to mind are corporations that deal with technology, oil and the waste products from those or the conveniences they allow that may contribute to sedentary lifestyles or straining on the eyes. We are surrounded by products pushed by corporations that we may need but the health effects are not really thought out when considering them. They have many different strategies in order to best garner profit. This effort focuses on marketing, consumers, and politicians. They use lobbying to get policies approved that work for them. One example is the huge tax break given to corporations by President Trump. Taxes went from 35 to 21 percent for these large corporations leaving the burden of taxes on people with lower income. This huge tax break falls on citizens of lower socioeconomic status.

Why is it important?

Referencing my last blog on the sustainable goals for the world I mentioned the importance of placing large corporations in a responsible role to combat the negative impacts they create environmentally. Regarding the commercial determinants of health, corporations that create food products that adversely affect the health of the nation need to be held accountable for their contribution to damaging health. Of course, we must acknowledge our personal responsibility to make healthier choices but when surrounded by unhealthy choices and things like financial pressures, it is almost inevitable that the wrong choices will be made. Corporations manipulate our “free will” and exploit the systemic conditions we are placed in.

How to approach this problem

Tackling this huge issue with so many facets can be overwhelming but its about placing efforts where there is the most impact as well as understanding where the power can shift away from these conglomerates. We spoke in my fundamentals of health systems course on how taking a systematic approach has a much greater impact versus focusing on the individual efforts towards better health. Creating community awareness of these subtle psychological tricks and its huge impact on our overall health is very important for us as a community to make informed decisions when it comes to voting for policies regarding corporations. It is also needed to really understand how these corporations gain power and how to redistribute this power back to the consumers. This requires tremendous group efforts and community centered thinking to really make any change. This mindset is needed for most of the problems of this world.


Healthcare as commercial product

In the United States, healthcare is treated more as a commercial product than a community responsibility which is the opposite in many other countries. Looking at the healthcare system, many products are priced higher when compared to other parts of the world. The health insurance companies also are an industry that is run like a business in order to gain profit. This puts consumers, those who need healthcare services at a disadvantage because the only options are expensive. Pharmaceutical companies in particular create drugs that are very similar to drugs already available and the price is increased. Doctors then prescribe these higher priced drugs and it creates a heavy burden to those that depend on them in their daily lives. Many people even fly to other countries to get healthcare services because traveling and receiving care is still cheaper than the charges here in America. This shows a weakness in the priority of life in America. These priorities need to be shifted.



Dr.Nino Paichadze’s presentation in our global health course really enlightened me to the potential of these corporations. The potential things corporations can do but don’t, due to their perceived profitability or lack thereof was one of the angles I hadn’t really thought of before. The ideas that could be brought forth more out of compassion than money would really be world altering. These types of thoughts and innovations should be more valued in order to create the solutions needed for things like the sustainable goals and to find solutions to many of the world’s problems.


Economic Shift

Changing the whole system so it doesn’t support prioritizing profit over well being would be the most ideal. Forming some type of scale where there is sort of positive incentives for those corporations actively work against negative commercial determinants. The American economy supports industry, entrepreneurship and large businesses. This is good to a certain point by allowing consumerism and access to many needed goods. It also gives consumers some power in market changes but it has a very negative effect without proper limitations. These lack of limitations and increased control given to these corporations by increasing wealth in the top 1% through policies lobbied have caused a huge wealth gap.

This type of vast systematic change can be implemented slowly through introductions of subtle policies followed by a firm stronger policy to really gain some momentum. These alterations are far from impossible. The power that we attribute to the majority of citizens is really undervalued and underestimated. Before now many would not be able to imagine defunding and altering the role the police force holds in our society. With consistent strong efforts from people all around the world let alone the country, new strategies are being put in place to put more efforts and funds into social services. These social services are more positive to our society and appropriate for the expertise needed in various situations previously mishandled by the police force. This is not quite comparable to creating an entire new economic system, but really represents the power of the people and the influence we have over our own lives.


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