Nav: Home

Corporate interests may have influenced key public health declaration

June 25, 2018

Corporate interests may have influenced a key public health declaration, intended to promote integrity and transparency at the interface of science and policy-making, warn a trio of leading academics* in an analysis published online in the journal Tobacco Control.

The Brussels Declaration had extensive involvement of the tobacco and alcohol industries during its development and offers the potential to advance their agendas, say the authors.

The 20-point blueprint was launched at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston, Massachusetts, in February 2017.

Despite the widespread backing of many leading scientists and institutions, "there are major concerns about how it was developed, and, in particular, the extensive involvement of tobacco and alcohol industry actors," highlight the authors.

The initiative, which reportedly originated with a communications consultancy (Sci-Com), was developed on the back of a series of consultations with more than 300 interested parties from 35 countries.

But only 165 of these people are named, so it's not clear who else was involved, nor is there any information on how they were all selected, the authors point out.

And senior level people from the tobacco industry were involved, with representatives from British American Tobacco far exceeding those from any other company. Yet Article 5.3 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco precludes the tobacco industry and associated vested interests from having any input into public health policy.

Seven different alcohol organisations were also involved, including the Brewers of Europe, Spirits Europe, the Portman Group, and the Scotch Whisky Association, all of which have variously critiqued individual scientists, research agendas, and initiatives in the public health arena, say the authors.

In all, 20 of the 165 named individuals directly represented tobacco or alcohol industry organisations: the Declaration proposes that policy-makers give much greater access to industry, and the organisations that represent its interests.

An email sent to the head of Sci-Com from the authors asking how the costs were met, and from which sources, went unanswered.

A similar process is now in train for Africa, with a further statement along the same lines as that for the Brussels Declaration, the authors point out, adding that as smoking rates fall in traditional markets, Africa is seen as an important growth market for tobacco.

The authors caution that as yet it's not clear if the Declaration has influenced policy-makers' views and intentions.But it has the potential to do so, they argue.

"The Brussels Declaration argues for the need to protect science from distortion by vested interests. Yet it appears to be a vehicle for advancing the vested interests of certain corporate sectors," they write.

"Calls for research integrity reflect core values of the research community. They should not be used as instruments to undermine science or to assist harmful industries." Careful monitoring is needed to ensure that science policies and public health are not unduly influenced, they conclude.

In a linked editorial, Professor Lisa Bero, of the University of Sydney, says that industry has form when it comes to influencing scientific evaluation/standards and shaping science policy to promote its own interests.

What is surprising, she says, is the low level of awareness of this activity among scientists and public health researchers. She provides 10 top tips on how best to spot industry involvement.

"Collectively, scientists need to learn to recognise when genuine commitments to research integrity are being hijacked to advance industry agendas. Investigating new initiatives based on the 10 tips...should make it easier for scientists to expose such initiatives and walk away from involvement with them," she declares.
-end-


BMJ

Related Public Health Articles:

Public health guidelines aim to lower health risks of cannabis use
Canada's Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines, released today with the endorsement of key medical and public health organizations, provide 10 science-based recommendations to enable cannabis users to reduce their health risks.
Study clusters health behavior groups to broaden public health interventions
A new study led by a University of Kansas researcher has used national health statistics and identified how to cluster seven health behavior groups based on smoking status, alcohol use, physical activity, physician visits and flu vaccination are associated with mortality.
Public health experts celebrate 30 years of CDC's prevention research solutions for communities with health disparities
It has been 30 years since CDC created the Prevention Research Centers (PRC) Program, currently a network of 26 academic institutions across the US dedicated to moving new discoveries into the communities that need them.
Public health experts support federally mandated smoke-free public housing
In response to a new federal rule mandating smoke-free policies in federally funded public housing authorities, three public health experts applaud the efforts of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to protect nonsmoking residents from the harmful effects of tobacco exposure.
The Lancet Public Health: UK soft drinks industry levy estimated to have significant health benefits, especially among children
The UK soft drinks industry levy, due to be introduced in April 2018, is estimated to have significant health benefits, especially among children, according to the first study to estimate its health impact, published in The Lancet Public Health.
Social sciences & health innovations: Making health public
The international conference 'Social Sciences & Health Innovations: Making Health Public' is the third event organized as a collaborative endeavor between Maastricht University, the Netherlands, and Tomsk State University, the Russian Federation, with participation from Siberian State Medical University (the Russian Federation).
Columbia Mailman School Awards Public Health Prize to NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T.
Dr. Mary T. Bassett, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, was awarded the Frank A.
Poor health literacy a public health issue
America's poor record on health literacy is a public health issue, but one that can be fixed -- not by logging onto the internet but by increased interaction with your fellow human beings, a Michigan State University researcher argues.
Despite health law's bow to prevention, US public health funding is dropping: AJPH study
Although the language of the Affordable Care Act emphasizes disease prevention -- for example, mandating insurance coverage of clinical preventive services such as mammograms -- funding for public health programs to prevent disease have actually been declining in recent years.
'Chemsex' needs to become a public health priority
Chemsex -- sex under the influence of illegal drugs -- needs to become a public health priority, argue experts in The BMJ this week.

Related Public Health Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Changing The World
What does it take to change the world for the better? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on activism—what motivates it, why it matters, and how each of us can make a difference. Guests include civil rights activist Ruby Sales, labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, author Jeremy Heimans, "craftivist" Sarah Corbett, and designer and futurist Angela Oguntala.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#521 The Curious Life of Krill
Krill may be one of the most abundant forms of life on our planet... but it turns out we don't know that much about them. For a create that underpins a massive ocean ecosystem and lives in our oceans in massive numbers, they're surprisingly difficult to study. We sit down and shine some light on these underappreciated crustaceans with Stephen Nicol, Adjunct Professor at the University of Tasmania, Scientific Advisor to the Association of Responsible Krill Harvesting Companies, and author of the book "The Curious Life of Krill: A Conservation Story from the Bottom of the World".