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Corporate Research for Public Health

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In a recent article in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, Corporations and Health Watch contributing writer Lainie Rutkow and her colleagues at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health conclude that schools of public health face a curricular gap, with relatively few offerings courses that teach students about the relationship between the private sector and the public’s health.  While 75% of the 46 accredited programs they surveyed offered at least one course on the private sector and public health, more than 40% of the courses reported focused on a single industry such as health insurance or pharmaceuticals.  Few focused on business and corporations as a social determinant of health and it did not appear that any emphasized teaching students how to investigate the health impact of corporation’s business and political practices. 

 

A new resource that can help public health researchers and students to fill this gap is Strategic Corporate Research, a new website developed by Tom Juravich, Professor of Labor Studies and Sociology at the University of Massachusetts and graduate students in the UMass Labor Center. Although the resource is based largely on union corporate campaigns, its method for researching corporate structures and practices will be of value to planners of public health campaigns to modify health damaging corporate practices.  The site includes information sources on US and Canadian publicly traded corporations, privately held firms and nonprofits and charities.   It also offers a practical tutorial for aspiring corporate researchers.   

 

More than  50 years ago – way before the internet was invented, notes Juravich,  sociologist C. Wright Mills argued that we were being overwhelmed by information and that what we needed is not more information but a framework to make sense of that information.  The website introduces a framework and a visual representation of the 24 areas (see below)  where corporate researchers can  focus their effort.  Juravich explains this framework in   Beating Global Capital: a Framework and Method for Union Strategic Corporate Research and Campaigns  and on the website.

 

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Previous CHW posts that described additional resources for public health researchers on studying corporations include:

Bringing Corporations and Health into the Public Health Curriculum  September 12 , 2012

New Resource: Beating Goliath Examines Successful Campaigns Against Corporations  March 14, 2012

LittleSis: A Tool for Activists and Researchers November 9, 2011

Corporations and Health Watch Goes Back to School: 10 Ways to Bring the Health Impact of Business Practices into the Classroom  September 7, 2011