Dr. Nicholas Freudenberg, professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy and colleagues from the University of Western Cape, South Africa examined the role of food, tobacco and alcohol industries in promoting noncommunicable disease risk. The work was published in Health Education & Behavior.
[Photo: Dr. Nicholas Freudenberg]
Noncommunicable diseases impose a growing burden on the health, economy, and development of South Africa. Tobacco use, alcohol consumption, unhealthy diets, and physical inactivity, account for a significant proportion of major noncommunicable diseases.
The authors analyzed the role of tobacco, alcohol, and food corporations in promoting noncommunicable diseases risk and unhealthy lifestyles in South Africa and in exacerbating inequities in the distribution of such diseases among populations. Through business practices such as product design, marketing, retail distribution, and pricing, lobbying, public relations, philanthropy, and sponsored research, national and transnational corporations in South Africa shape the social and physical environments that structure opportunities for noncommunicable disease risk behaviors. Since the election of a democratic government in 1994, the South African government and civil society groups have used regulation, public education, health services, and community mobilization to modify corporate practices that increase these risks. The authors recommend expanding health education to include activities that seek to modify the practices of corporations as well as individuals. The goal is to reduce South Africa’s growing burden of noncommunicable diseases.