On the Perils of Universal and Product-Led Thinking; Comment on “How Neoliberalism Is Shaping the Supply of Unhealthy Commodities and What This Means for NCD Prevention”

Document Type: Commentary

Author

Department of Geography, King’s College London, London, UK

Abstract

Lencucha and Thow’s paper offers an important addition and corrective to the burgeoning body of work in public health on the ‘commercial determinants of health’ in the context of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Rather than tracing the origins of incoherence across policy sectors to the nefarious actions of industry, they argue that we need to be better attuned to the neoliberal ideologies that underpin these policies. In this commentary I explore two aspects of their argument that I find to be problematic: First, the suggestion that neoliberalism itself has some kind of deterministic or explanatory capacity across vastly different social, spatial, economic and political contexts. Second, I explore their concept of ‘product-based NCD risk,’ a perspective that disembodies and detaches risk from the social and structural conditions of their making.

Keywords

Main Subjects


  1. Lencucha R, Thow AM. How neoliberalism is shaping the supply of unhealthy commodities and what this means for NCD prevention. Int J Health Policy Manag. 2019;8(9):514-520. doi:10.15171/ijhpm.2019.56
  2. McKee M, Stuckler D. Revisiting the corporate and commercial determinants of health. Am J Public Health. 2018;108(9):1167-1170. doi:10.2105/ajph.2018.304510
  3. Kickbusch I, Allen L, Franz C. The commercial determinants of health. Lancet Glob Health. 2016;4(12):e895-e896. doi:10.1016/S2214-109X(16)30217-0
  4. Moodie R, Stuckler D, Monteiro C, et al. Profits and pandemics: prevention of harmful effects of tobacco, alcohol, and ultra-processed food and drink industries. Lancet. 2013;381(9867):670-679. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(12)62089-3
  5. Reubi D. Of neoliberalism and global health: human capital, market failure and sin/social taxes. Crit Public Health. 2016;26(5):481-486. doi:10.1080/09581596.2016.1196288
  6. Herrick C. Alcohol, ideological schisms and a science of corporate behaviours on health. Crit Public Health. 2016;26(1):14-23. doi:10.1080/09581596.2014.951313
  7. Green J. Time to interrogate corporate interests in public health? Crit Public Health. 2019;29(3):257-259. doi:10.1080/09581596.2019.1587886
  8. Bell K, Green J. On the perils of invoking neoliberalism in public health critique. Crit Public Health. 2016;26(3):239-243. doi:10.1080/09581596.2016.1144872
  9. Ward K, England K. Introduction: Reading Neoliberalization. In: Neoliberalization: States, Networks, Peoples. Wiley; 2007. p. 1-22. doi:10.1002/9780470712801.ch1
  10. Brenner N, Theodore N. Cities and the geographies of “actually existing neoliberalism.” Antipode. 2002;34(3):349-379. doi:10.1111/1467-8330.00246
  11. World Health Organisation (WHO). From burden to "best buys": reducing the economic impact of NCDs in low- and middle-income countries. Geneva: WHO; 2011.
  12. Bakke Ø, Endal D. Vested interests in addiction research and policy alcohol policies out of context: drinks industry supplanting government role in alcohol policies in sub-Saharan Africa. Addiction. 2010;105(1):22-28. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2009.02695.x
  13. Herrick C. Global health, geographical contingency, and contingent geographies. Ann Am Assoc Geogr. 2016;106(3):672-687. doi:10.1080/24694452.2016.1140017
  14. Cleaver F. Development Through Bricolage: Rethinking Institutions for Natural Resource Management. London: Routledge; 2017.
  15. Katikireddi SV, Whitley E, Lewsey J, Gray L, Leyland AH. Socioeconomic status as an effect modifier of alcohol consumption and harm: analysis of linked cohort data. Lancet Public Health. 2017;2(6):e267-e276. doi:10.1016/s2468-2667(17)30078-6
  16. Farmer P. Infections and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues. Berkeley: University of California Press; 1999.
  17. Seeberg J, Meinert L. Can epidemics be noncommunicable? reflections on the spread of 'noncommunicable' diseases. Med Anthropol Theory. 2015;2(2):54-71. doi:10.17157/mat.2.2.171
  18. Stuckler D, McKee M, Ebrahim S, Basu S. Manufacturing epidemics: the role of global producers in increased consumption of unhealthy commodities including processed foods, alcohol, and tobacco. PLoS Med. 2012;9(6):e1001235. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001235