By Callie Anderson

Callie Anderson is completing her Masters of Public Health at the University of Waterloo. She currently works as a Health Promoter developing programs and advocating for policies to improve public health and health equity at the community level.

What are the Commercial Determinants of Health?

The commercial determinants of health (CDoH) are “the strategies and approaches the private sector uses to promote products and choices that are detrimental to health” 1. The concept of the CDoH has only relatively recently emerged as an area of inquiry despite its connection to one of the most urgent public health challenges worldwide, the prevention of non-communicable disease (NCD). 

The inquiry into the CDoH over the past decade has led to a focus on the leading risk factors (e.g., tobacco use, alcohol consumption, poor diet, physical inactivity) for NCDs and how the burden of disease can be attributed to the significant influence exerted by Big Tobacco, Big Alcohol, and Big Food 2,3. While these three industries are most common in CDoH research, discussion of the CDoH can also be extended to include other industry and products of concern including fossil fuels and gambling 4.

Earlier this year, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) released a revised version of the Low-risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines with new guidance for alcohol consumption 5. To lower one’s risk of alcohol related health harms, it is recommended to limit alcohol intake to two standard drinks per week 5. This recent revision has brought a renewed attention to the societal impact of alcohol and has spurred my interest in exploring some of the ways commercial interests of the alcohol industry can shape consumption patterns and even alcohol policy.


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