“Harmful commodity industries” (HCIs) – are not just any business, but specifically harmful ones in terms of their public health implications. The use and consumption of HCI products, namely tobacco, alcohol, gambling, and unhealthy foods, increase the risk of long-term illness, disability and mortality. They also worsen health inequalities and create financial and societal burden.
The nature and impact of interactions between public bodies and HCIs is recognised and discussed at national and international levels, but little is known about these interactions at regional or local government level in England nor elsewhere. Interactions between HCIs and local government may have an important role in shaping the local environments in which people work and live, and thus health behaviours and associated outcomes at a population level.
What did we do?
In our latest paper we aimed to identify, characterise, and propose a typology of interactions between HCIs and English local authorities (LAs). We did this in a two-part iterative process:
Part 1: We conducted a review of published academic literature to form a ‘typology frame’ to create a guiding structure to group and search for interactions.
Part 2: We searched for publicly available grey information to find documented examples of interactions in an English LA context. Grey information refers to literature produced outside of commercial and academic publishing such as reports and government documents.
What did we find?
We developed three categories which describe the medium through which interactions occur. Within these categories, we grouped interactions into themes defining their nature and identified illustrative examples.
- Direct involvement with LAs, for example licencing and marketing on the LA platform
- Involvement through intermediaries, for example sponsoring and supporting locally
- Involvement through the local knowledge space, for example joint campaigns and societal contributions
Our typology provides an overview of the potential interactions between HCIs and LAs. The typology can facilitate new understanding that explores the LA perspective of interactions with HCIs, to support LA policy and decision-makers, in and outside of public health.
Key take-home messages:
- Increases in preventable long-term diseases are largely driven by the consumption and use of tobacco, alcohol, gambling and less healthy foods and drinks, produced by ‘harmful commodity industries’ (HCIs).
- Public bodies often have complex and close inter-relationships with HCIs, but these interactions have not been characterised at regional or local government level in England nor elsewhere.
- Our typology of interactions between HCIs and local government, intermediaries, and the local knowledge space, acknowledges that local government seeks interactions with the private sector for mutual benefit, which does not apply to interactions with HCIs.
- The typology identifies complex inter-relationships and could help inform future policies and further considerations for decision-makers on how to maximise population health and minimise negative impacts of HCI interactions.
This is the first study assessing the ways English local authorities may interact with industries that produce products potentially harmful to health. This typology could help govern local interactions that incorporates a LA perspective, to ensure that LAs interact with HCIs in a way that optimises business opportunities whilst protecting population health.