In recent decades, the alcohol, tobacco and food and beverage industries have become the leading global providers of public information about their products and their health impact, spending far more than governments or public health agencies to disseminate messages to consumers.
At the American Public Health Association meeting in Boston last week, Corporations and Health Watch sponsored a session that examined the implications of this corporate takeover for the discipline and profession of health education and for the prevention of chronic diseases, now the world’s leading killers.
First, Cheryl G. Healton, Dean of the New York University Global Institute of Public Health and former CEO of the American Legacy Foundation described the role of the tobacco industry in promoting its products and compared its strategies to those used by the food and beverage and alcohol industries.
Next, Michele Simon from Eat Drink Politics and the author of Appetite for Profit examined the food and beverage industry. In her report And Now a Word From Our Sponsors, she described the ways the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics collaborates with the food industry, jeopardizing the credibility of nutritionists and nutrition educators.
David H. Jernigan, the Director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University analyzed the role of the alcohol industry in educating consumers and policy makers about alcohol and described some of the ways the industry sought to influence alcohol policy.
Finally, Nicholas Freudenberg from City University of New York School of Public Health and Hunter College, who served as moderator, discussed the roles that health educators and other public health professionals can play in mobilizing various constituencies to oppose the takeover of health education by the alcohol, food and beverage and tobacco industries.