Commercial Determinants of Health

The commercial determinants of health (CDoH) are the effects that for-profit enterprises have on human health. While these effects can sometimes be positive, many of our most serious public health crises - like chronic diseases, opioid overdose, and climate change – have been driven by unchecked corporate activities.

The industries that cause the most harm include those that market health-harming consumer products - including alcohol, automobiles, firearms, ultra-processed foods and sugary beverages, pharmaceuticals, and tobacco - as well as industries which contribute to climate change, air pollution, chemical exposures, and other forms of environmental damage. Emerging research also points to the complex and often harmful social impacts of other industries including real estate, private prisons, and consumer technology. Industries whose products or services have strong addictive potential can be especially harmful, due to both the impacts of addiction and the higher profit margins these industries tend to generate. Moreover, unethical business policies and practices not only harm consumers, but also workers (through unsafe workplaces, wages that don’t rise with corporate profits, etc.) and the broader public in more indirect ways (e.g., through corporate tax avoidance).

To protect their profits, many of these industries share common strategies and tactics, including manufacturing doubt about scientific research, attacking public health researchers, aggressive lobbying, co-opting public health campaigns, and creating "AstroTurf" (fake grassroots) organizations.