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Lancet Series on CDOH

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People, profits, and health: The Lancet Series on the commercial determinants of health


We all want a world in which the health of people and the planet are higher priorities than profit. Commercial actors – ranging from small locally-owned businesses to major corporations and financial organisations – influence people’s health and wellbeing in varied and complex ways. Some play a positive role in society, providing fair access to goods and services necessary for health, such as nutritious food, and quality healthcare, medicine and housing. 

However, some commercial actors’ products and practices are responsible for escalating levels of preventable ill health, social and health inequity, and environmental damage. 

And the public is often bearing the costs of the damage – both financially and physically in terms of our planet and health. While policy solutions exist, they’re not currently being implemented and health harms are escalating, leaving healthcare systems increasingly unable to cope.  

The Lancet Series on the commercial determinants of health (CDOH) sets out what can be done to protect the wellbeing of our community. 

“The Series isn't anti-business; it's pro health. The energy and innovation of the commercial world are powerful and should be channelled into profitable enterprises that advance human and planetary health, wellbeing and equity. The case for doing so is undeniably compelling.”

Rob Moodie
The Lancet Series on commercial determinants of health

The Lancet Series on CDOH 

The Lancet Series explores how different commercial forces impact the health of people, the planet and health equity alongside recommendations for change. The Series is made up of 3 papers: 

  1. Defining and conceptualising the commercial determinants of health. 
  2. Conceptualising commercial entities in public health: beyond unhealthy commodities and transnational corporations. 
  3. Commercial determinants of health: Where to from here? 

Want to go straight to the Series papers?


Access the full Lancet Series on CDOH here.

See the Series infographic here.

The Series was launched in the UK on Tuesday 28 March 2023. Missed the global launch event? Catch up on the recording here

VicHealth is a world-first health promotion organisation that works with experts to improve better health and wellbeing. Find out more. 


How to take action today 

Together we can create systems and policies that prioritise health, wellbeing and equity. How, you ask? Read the policy briefs outlining key takeaways and exactly what actions you can take. Here’s what you need to know if you’re a:

“The task of tackling (the commercial determinants of health) is daunting, but that should not be a reason not to proceed.”

Sharon Friel et al.
The Lancet Series on commercial determinants of health

But first, a quick look at the Commercial Determinants of Health... 

The commercial determinants of health are defined as “the systems, practices and pathways through which commercial actors drive human health and equity”. This deliberately broad definition recognises that commercial actors and their products make both positive and negative contributions to health.  

Just four such products - tobacco, alcohol, highly processed foods, and fossil fuels - already account for over a third of global deaths per year.


Want more information? Read the summary report or the full papers

The solutions

Addressing commercial determinants of health and health inequities requires a global rebalancing of power. One that prioritises public interests over commercial profit. Achieving this requires coordinated efforts from multiple stakeholder groups: 

  • States and international organisations must change policy systems and incentivise investment in business models that are essential for health, equity and sustainability.  
  • Commercial actors must end opposition to health regulatory policies; respect regulations to reduce harmful practices and products; and implement regenerative business models.  
  • Civil society groups must raise their collective voice, share alternative visions and hold commercial actors and governments accountable.  
  • Academia and researchers must provide evidence that is fit for purpose and presented in the right way, at the right time, and to the right audiences.  
  • Health actors need to move away from relying solely on the biomedical model of health and start engaging other factors like influential trade, finance and business actors. 

The question is not whether the world has the resources or will to take such actions, but whether humanity can survive if we fail to make this effort.

A group as sitting in the Indigenous garden at Collingwood Children's Farm. They are listening to a First Nations speaker talk about the land and the history of the place.

What is The Lancet

Founded in 1823, The Lancet began as an independent, international weekly general medical journal with the vision that it should drive social and political change through advancing medical research and science for the greater good. Every week, The Lancet publishes the best science from the best scientists worldwide, providing an unparalleled global reach and impact on health. 

VicHealth recently supported The Lancet on an innovative series which raises awareness of the commercial determinants of health.   


With thanks to The Lancet  Series authors, partners - including The Lancet, Australian National University, SPECTRUM, The University of Bath and The University of Melbourne - and the many individuals who contributed to this body of work. 


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Artwork by Dexx (Gunditjmara/Boon Wurrung) ‘Mobs Coming Together’ 2022
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Artwork Credit: Dexx (Gunditjmara/Boon Wurrung) ‘Mobs Coming Together’ 2022, acrylic on canvas. Learn more about this artwork.