by and | May 23, 2024 | Newsletters

EPHA Newsletter | Uniting Civil Society: A Collaborative Fight Against Commercial Determinants of Health

In the ongoing battle against non-communicable diseases (NCDs), confronting the commercial determinants that adversely affect public health remains a significant challenge. These determinants are largely fuelled by industries that profit from products linked to NCDs and their main risk factors, including tobacco, alcohol, and unhealthy diets. Recognising the urgency of this issue, civil society organisations across the European Union, including EPHA, have intensified their advocacy efforts to mitigate these influences. This also includes substantial support from our dedicated members and allies, who have helped us refine our Working Plan for 2024 and set the Commercial Determinants of Health (CDoH) as a key priority for our policy and advocacy work. 

National Success Stories and Collective Efforts 

From Ireland’s pioneering alcohol labelling laws, fostered by the invaluable work of Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI), to Slovenia’s bold amendments in tobacco legislation, driven by the tireless efforts of the Lithuanian Tobacco and Alcohol Control Coalition (NTAKK), the fight against NCDs has seen remarkable victories at the national level. These successes have been made possible through the unwavering support and collaborative efforts of our members and allies, who are deeply rooted in their respective countries, advocating for public health, advocating for public health and supporting each other’s work across countries for our common goal of improving public health in Europe from both EU and national perspectives.  

For instance, Ireland’s initiative, which mandates comprehensive health warnings on alcohol products by 2026, was propelled by strong civic engagement and support during the EU TRIS process, reflecting a broad consensus among the public and stakeholders. Similarly, the success in Slovenia was significantly bolstered by several national and international organisations, including EPHA and some of its members, who sent letters and demonstrated their support for this important initiative. More details will follow in this newsletter. 

Strategic Engagement and the European Perspective 

These national initiatives serve as potent examples of how localised actions can catalyse broader changes. These successes not only foster healthier environments within their respective countries but also set precedents that could potentially inspire similar legislative advancements across other nations and even lead to comprehensive European legislation. 

Building on this grassroots momentum, EPHA, along with other international members and allies, is also tackling the issue from another angle by directly influencing policies at European institutions and international agencies. This includes our ongoing collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) on the upcoming report on commercial determinants of health, expected to be launched in June this year, as well as our engagement with the SANT sub-committee at the European Parliament, and the enhancement of its own-initiative (INI) report on NCDs last year. Additionally, our efforts have been significant in advocating against cuts to the health budget and being vocal and united against the impasse on several key files, such as the Sustainable Food Systems Framework (SFSF), the Food Information to Consumers (FIC), among others initiatives under the Farm to Fork strategy, as well as the long-awaited alcohol strategy. By advocating for a blueprint directive aimed at protecting children from the marketing of unhealthy food products, written by Prof. Amandine Garde (University of Liverpool), EPHA is not just reacting to challenges but proactively shaping a healthier future for Europe’s youngest citizens, promoting equity in health and shielding them from exploitative advertising. 

A David vs. Goliath Battle for Systemic Change: Call to Unity 

As we look beyond individual campaigns, our focus shifts toward a systems-thinking approach that addresses the root causes of NCDs. This method promotes comprehensive policy changes aimed at tackling the broad social, economic, and environmental determinants of health. By moving the narrative from individual responsibility to systemic solutions, civil society is actively shaping a healthier future, rather than merely responding to crises. 

In this classic David vs. Goliath battle, the unity of civil society organisations is more critical than ever. Together, we confront the giant (conflict of interest) to foster environments conducive to good health. The effectiveness of our efforts is amplified by the solidarity and collective resolve of our members across Europe, who are committed to putting public health ahead of commercial profits. 

Our commitment to influencing legislative and policy frameworks that champion public health continues to be unwavering. Through persistent collaborative efforts and strategic advocacy, we are dismantling the barriers erected by commercial determinants of health. United, we are paving the way for a more equitable and healthier Europe for present and future generations.

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