Corporate Determinants of Health

By John Millar

The notion of the corporate determinants of health is gaining traction. Dr Margaret Chan, Director General of WHO recently stated that ‘the formulation of health policies must be protected from distortion by commercial or vested interests’; ‘Big Food, Big Soda and Big Alcohol fear regulation and protect themselves by using …tactics (such as)…front groups, lobbies, promises of self-regulation, lawsuits, industry-funded research that confuses evidence and keeps the public in doubt..(also)…gifts, grants, and contributions to worthy causes that cast these industries as respectable corporate citizens…(and) …place the responsibility for harm to health on individuals, and portray government actions as interference in personal liberties and free choice.’

Couldn’t have said it better myself!

PHABC is proceeding to recognize ‘healthy corporations’ that meet the following (triple bottom line):  a useful, healthy, ethical product at fair market value; living wage for all employees and outsourced staff; progressive benefits that include  pensions, vacation, parental and other leaves, and day care; workplace wellness; progressive management – control, ownership, profit sharing, unions; corporate social responsibility; and, green policies.

logoIn the United States the idea of B Corporations is spreading with the recent announcement of B Corporation legislation in Delaware. This is legislation that allows businesses to legally incorporate to pursue the triple bottom line (PPP: Profits, People. Planet) – more: http://www.bcorporation.net/

We all have a role to play in building a healthier society. It is time the corporate sector accepted their role as a key contributor to population health.

Dr John_DSC0831– John Millar is a Clinical Professor Emeritus , University of British Columbia School of Population and Public Health, and Vice President of the PHABC.

Further Reading

Address to the 8th Global Conference on Health Promotion  | Dr. Margaret Chan | June 10 2013

A New Kind of Corporation to Harness the Power of Private Enterprise for Public Benefit | Gov. Jack Markell (Delaware) | Huffington Post – Business Canada | July 22 2013

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Is The Living Wage a Public Health Issue?

By Ted Bruce

While browsing on-line news recently, I stumbled across an article about protests by American fast food workers and their poverty level wages.

The newly calculated 2012 living wage rate for Metro Vancouver stands at $19.62 per hour. Photo Source: A Living Wage for Families (www.livingwageforfamilies.ca)

The newly calculated 2012 living wage rate for Metro Vancouver stands at $19.62 per hour. Photo Source: A Living Wage for Families (livingwageforfamilies.ca)

I was reminded of calls for a living wage in BC. Living wage proponents everywhere are starting to gain more attention exactly because of the dynamics described in the article. People are working full time or even at 2 jobs and still may be unable to meet their basic living expenses. I was also struck by the similarity in the arguments by those opposed to living wage policies such as the belief that raising wages is not affordable. Although the article does a good job of debunking that myth (I love the comment on how big corporations are subsidized by food stamps for the poor), it is important for public health advocates to have a fundamental grasp of the living wage. Public health has consistently called for a variety of healthy public policies such as affordable child care. Public policies can directly affect the calculation of the living wage rate and thus the cost of a living wage to employers in any given community. When public health calls for social and income related policies that promote population health, they are in some respects contributing to the debate on the living wage. To learn more about the living wage visit: http://livingwageforfamilies.ca/ The living wage discussion raises the broader issue of the corporate determinants of health. This is a topic that is becoming more important as governments downsize and the role and power of corporations in our society increases. PHABC will soon be announcing an initiative on the corporate determinants of health so we can better understand how to advocate within this sector. Stay tuned for a blog by John Millar, PHABC’s Vice President in an upcoming blog on this topic.

Ted Bruce is the Past President of the PHABC