Conducting Research on the Commercial Determinants of Health

Online short course

Overview - Commercial Determinants of Health short course

Global ill health due to unhealthy commodity consumption has become a chronic, complex, pervasive problem, the drivers and mechanisms of which are the focus of increasing research. The study of the commercial determinants of health (CDOH) includes analyses of unhealthy commodity industries (UCIs), the adverse health impacts attributable to commercial activities, and the strategies employed by commercial actors to promote products which can damage health. The causal pathways linking commercial products and practices with health are complex. The complexity of the problem is not limited to understanding just the drivers of unhealthy commodity consumption; it extends to the way in which corporate actors shape wider systems and public understanding to support their business interests. These themes are explored in this short course, with a focus on conducting research on the CDOH. 

The commercial determinants of health (CDOH) are those activities of the private sector that affect the health of populations. This short course aims to impart a conceptual understanding of the CDOH as well as the most recent evidence on how they work to impact health. The course also draws on relevant disciplines and explores the methodological implications and data/data sources for research on CDOH. This course is unique in that it approaches unhealthy commodity industries and their impact on health as a whole, rather than focusing on a specific industry (such as tobacco and alcohol). 

The course is delivered in the context of the LSHTM Commercial Determinants Research Group (CDRG) and co-organised by Professor Cécile Knai, Dr Nason Maani (now affiliated with the University of Edinburgh), Professor Mark Petticrew and Dr May van Schalkwyk. You will also have the opportunity to be taught by other internationally renowned experts in commercial determinants’ research, including Dr Renzo Guinto, Associate Professor of the Practice of Global Public Health, St. Luke's Medical Center in the Philippines, and Dr Emeka Dumbili, Assistant Professor, University College Dublin.

Course objectives

At the end of the course, the students should be able to:

  • articulate what is meant by CDOH, including the conditions and factors that facilitate poor health outcomes due to commercial activity
  • summarise substantive findings from the literature on CDOH
  • understand and practice a range of methods used to conduct research on CDOH
  • explore topics of interest through seminars, self-study and group work

Who is the course for?

Practitioners and academics from a range of disciplines who are interested in learning the key concepts and approaches involved in researching CDOH.

Session content

What are the commercial determinants of health (CDOH) and what do we know about how they influence health?

  • intro to complexity
  • lectures on processed food, alcohol, tobacco, gambling, firearms and others, as well as understudied UCIs
  • what mechanisms of influence do UCIs employ
  • how do UCIs work together and what are the cumulative effects on e.g. regulation, marketing, and the creation of evidence
  • methodological implications of research on CDOH (systems approaches and methods, framing analyses etc)
  • data needs and sources (freedom of information requests, social media, policy submissions, websites etc)
  • group discussions

Teaching methods

The course will be taught through a series of pre-recorded lectures, interactive seminars, group work and reading,


A limited number of discounted places (50% fees) are available for doctoral candidates and researchers from World Bank-defined Low- and Middle-Income (LMIC) countries (eligible countries).

Applicants must hold an offer of a place before they can apply for a discounted place. Funding applications received after 20 July 2024 will not be considered.

Eligibility criteria

Applicants must hold an offer of admission for the course.

The reduced fee places will be awarded to doctoral students and researchers who are from, and based in, World Bank-defined Low- and Middle-Income (LMIC) countries (eligible countries) based on need for support and potential to apply the skills learned from the course.

How to apply

Applicants need to submit a statement of 250 words to clearly stating how the skills learned from the course would be applied

Please state ‘SCDH reduced fee application’ in the subject line.

The deadline for submission of applications for a reduced fee place is 20 July 2024. Decisions will be confirmed within two weeks of the deadline.

How to apply
How to apply - Commercial Determinants of Health short course

Applications for 2024 are now open and can be made via our online application form.

When applying for discounted fees, please include proof of LMIC or student status alongside your CV. LMIC status can be confirmed with a passport and proof of current residence. 

Please read LSHTM's Admissions policies prior to submitting your application.