Sweet, sweet conflict of interest…

A PHS 795 student calls our attention to a recent NPR story on potential conflicts of interest associated with the soft drink industry’s funding of public health initiatives. They write:

The article and associated NPR story below discuss soda company sponsorship of U.S. health and medical organizations, along with corporate lobbying expenditures on public health legislation.

Listening and reading this made me think about the focus in our class on the economic aspects of population health, particularly operating in a world with limited resources. With budgets being cut or limited for health organizations, I think it is hard for organizations not to apply for or take money where they can get it, but it is important to keep the organization’s mission in mind.

It is not clear from the article, but I wonder if the organizations have to apply (e.g., for a grant) for the funding, and if they also do so from other companies (not just soda companies)? Does it matter whether money is just given freely, or if the organization has to apply for it? Was it a matter of getting a program or event funded in order to help individuals? If so, if that program or event supported the health and well-being of individuals, do the benefits of the program or event outweigh the potential conflict of interest issues?

On a related note, I’ve noticed increasingly that organizations are partnering with pharmaceuticals to offer grants funding. It might be interesting to see a similar analysis of the pharmaceutical industry.

I’d be interested to hear what others might have to say on this.


Here is a link to the study in the Am J Prev Med that motivated the story: http://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(16)30331-2/pdf


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