Understanding and addressing unhealthy commodity industry influence

Work Package Two: Corporate Conduct

Work Package Leader:  Anna Gilmore, University of Bath

Aim: To advance our understanding of Unhealthy Commodity Producers’ (UCPs) influence on health and public policy, and identify how this knowledge can be effectively translated to improve public health.


  • Understand how UCPs influence health and public policy through targeted case studies of corporate political activity around emerging NCD policies;
  • Develop a conceptual model for understanding the commercial determinants of health, with an emphasis on UCPs.

Methods and Data Sources:

Applied research on ‘market’ and ‘nonmarket’ UCP practices has enabled significant advances in public health, yet the data sources, methodological approaches and pathways for knowledge translation are diverse and to date poorly documented. We will compile evidence of best practice through reviews of the academic and grey literature and key informant interviews (with creators and users of the research), aiming to identify the specific types of research and knowledge translation most likely to enable policy change. To enhance the robustness of this work, we will establish a panel of experts to achieve convergence of opinion. E-mail correspondence will be used to elicit initial expert opinion and amend the two outputs which will then be further refined through subsequent in-person meetings.

We will then apply this new knowledge by undertaking case studies of UCPs’ attempts to influence emerging public health policies. Data sources will include submissions to policy consultations, industry-commissioned research, industry documents, press coverage, government and third-party documents, and key informant interviews. Our work will draw on mixed methods approaches including archival and company document analysis, content and thematic analysis and process tracing. Our previously-developed taxonomy of corporate political activity will be used as a framework to categorise industry tactics and arguments.

We will develop a model of the commercial determinants of health drawing on evidence of the diverse ways UCPs’ practices impact on health, the emerging body of literature profiling the commercial determinants of health, and our ongoing review of strengths and weaknesses of existing models of determinants of health. Our schematic will demonstrate the activities and processes through which corporations influence health and inequalities, from the proximal (e.g. product marketing) to the distal (e.g. influence on politics and policy architecture).