by | June 24, 2024 | Opinion

Another milestone towards the end of the Commercial Determinants of Health

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Europe has published its report on the Commercial Determinants of Non-Communicable Diseases (CDoNCD) in the European Region. The report builds on the Lancet series on the Commercial Determinants of Health, and it explores how commercial interests exacerbate non-communicable diseases (NCDs), as well as key strategies used by commercial interests to influence NCD-related policies negatively, at both national and international level. It also offers practical and hands-on examples with 33 case studies which illustrate the subtle tactics of certain commercial actors.  

The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) has led Chapter 13, “The power of people’s voice matters: the actions that citizens and civil society can take to reduce commercial determinants of NCDs”, directed by our Policy Manager on NCD Prevention, Alessandro Gallina. The chapter highlights the importance of civil society organisations (CSO) in addressing the CDoNCDs, of building intersectional coalitions with a wide range of expertise and backgrounds, so policies properly cover the diversity of our communities, leaving no one behind.  

Another key element of the chapter is the outline of the shifting on the narrative around responsibility: citizens are no longer solely responsible for their (poor) state of health, but governments are also to be looked at. Governments and policymakers hold the responsibility to provide us, citizens, with basic structures and conditions so that we can develop in peace and in health. As part of the social contract, commercial interests must not be put first in priorities.  

Part of the chapter, the case study “Call for a blueprint directive on the protection of children from the marketing of unhealthy food products to children: an alliance for change” illustrates how children are constantly exposed to ferocious marketing practices, being an easy and manipulable target. The European Commission (EC), following the national examples of Germany, Norway, United Kingdom and Spain, should regulate to protect children and to provide a safe environment for them to grow far from commercial interferences. This blueprint directive, written by Professor Amandine Garde (University of Liverpool), would be a great starting point for the EC.  

As Belgian Minister of Social Affairs and Public Health, Frank Vanderbroucke, verbalized in his opening speech at the report launch: “For too long we have considered risk factors as being mostly linked to individual choices. We need to re-frame the problem as a systemic problem, where policy has to counter “hyper-consumption environments”, restrict marketing, and stop interference in policy making”.  

The recent European elections could represent a turning point for addressing the commercial determinants of NCDs and improving our health. Indeed, it is crucial that EPHA together with its members and allies unite and collaborate to address this key issue. 

Disclaimer: the opinions – including possible policy recommendations – expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of EPHA. The mere appearance of the articles on the EPHA website does not mean an endorsement by EPHA.

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