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Research explains how global industries make people sick

Neelam Rahim |

3-minute read
31 March 2023 | 22:14 CAT

Photo credit - Wits University

Photo credit – Wits University

Profit versus health. A series of reports published in the medical journal Lancet has looked at four ways big global industries make people sick. It is commonly known that alcohol and tobacco use makes you ill. Less known is that just four industries account for at least one-third of global preventable deaths. These industries are unhealthy processed food and drinks, fossil fuels, alcohol and tobacco. According to the Lancet reports, these collectively cause 19 million deaths yearly.

The Lancet series describes a pathological system by which a substantial group of commercial actors increasingly become part of the problem, causing harm and making others pay the costs of doing so.

Speaking to Radio Islam International senior researcher at the SAMRC/Wits Centre for Health Economics and Decision Science, Teurai Rwaf said the industry drives sickness, disability, and theft.

Commercial use in activities can be viewed as positive because it results in the employment of people in communities. Rwaf argues; we are ignoring the harm that commercial actors are doing simultaneously.

The commercial sector exists to make a profit. In the logic of the private sector, this outweighs public health and well-being. Commercial activity’s health impacts can be positive, such as employing people in communities. But most are harmful. In public health, we call these “commercial determinants of health”.

The commercial practices that lead to these impacts range from legal to illegal, evident to subtle. They often overlap. At the same time, several types of practices used by commercial actors harm us. The most obvious are marketing, reputation management, questioning scientific evidence and financial manipulation.

People targeted in the marketing tactics include poor South Africans, lower income earning populations, and the social norms of introducing the youth to the products.

Listen to the full interview with Annisa Essack on Your World Today.


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