Article

Business and Corporate Practices

Nicholas Freudenberg

in Public Health

ISBN: 9780199756797
Published online February 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0130
Business and Corporate Practices

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Public health professionals and researchers have often focused on the role of civil society and government in influencing population health, but the business sector also plays a powerful role in shaping patterns of health and disease. The products that businesses make, their production and distribution practices, their employment policies, and their involvement in the political process can promote or undermine the health of populations. By the early 21st century, the free market system, in several variants, had become the dominant economic paradigm around the world, and most businesses operate within this framework. This entry considers the growing and interdisciplinary literatures that examine the health consequences, history, and changing dynamics of the influence of business practices on health. The focus is on corporations, the principal unit of business today, and a key topic of interest is the role of public health in promoting health-enhancing business practices and reducing health-damaging practices. Although citations reflect the range of literature on the topic, empirical studies that assess the health impact of various specific practices are favored over more theoretical perspectives. For at least two reasons, more has been written on the harmful effects than on the health-enhancing effects of business practices. First, public health researchers often focus on problems rather than successes to fulfill their mission of improving and protecting population health. Second, most proponents of free market systems assume its benefits, especially since alternative models (e.g., state socialism) have collapsed. As a result, these supporters have little motivation to analyze the health impact of markets. However, this absence of a literature documenting the beneficial health effects of corporations should not lead researchers to conclude that such benefits do not exist. Conversely, studies of the harmful effects should be evaluated on their merits, not dismissed because they represent only one side of the picture.

Article.  7047 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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