Defining the commercial determinants of health: A systematic review

Cassandra De Lacy-Vawdon, Charles Livingstone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Despite increasing attention to the social determinants of health in recent decades, globally there is an unprecedented burden from non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Recently, the corporate and commercial conditions associated with these, commercial determinants of health (CDoH), have also begun to receive attention. This research aims to articulate the CDoH as described in the literature, summarize substantive findings, and assess strengths and limitations of current literature. Methods: Systematic review of formal (Medline, EMBASE, Scopus, Global Health) and grey literature (database, Google Advanced, targeted website, citation searching). Searching identified 125 texts for full-text review, with 33 included for final review. Data extracted were analyzed thematically. Results: The dynamics constituting CDoH include broad facilitators such as globalization of trade, corporate structures, and regulatory systems, articulation of social and economic power, neoliberal and capitalist ideologies; additional elements include corporate activities such as marketing, corporate political activities, corporate social responsibility, extensive supply chains, harmful products and production, and issues of accessibility. These contribute significantly to worsened global health outcomes. Conclusions: Literature describing effects of macro conditions and corporate activities on health could usefully utilize CDoH terminology. Facilitation via revised, consistent and operational definition of CDoH would assist. Social, political, commercial and economic structures and relations of CDoH are under-theorized. Systematic approaches to identifying, describing, and disrupting these are required to improve global health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1022
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2020


  • Commercial determinants of health
  • Global health
  • Non-communicable diseases

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