The Commercial Determinants of Three Contemporary National Crises: How Corporate Practices Intersect With the COVID-19 Pandemic, Economic Downturn, and Racial Inequity

COVID-19 Commercial Determinants of Health

Policy Points:

  • The United States finds itself in the middle of an unprecedented combination of crises: a global pandemic, economic crisis, and unprecedented civic responses to structural racism.
  • While public sector responses to these crises have faced much justified criticism, the commercial determinants of these crises have not been sufficiently examined.
  • In this commentary we examine the nature of the contributions of such actors to the conditions that underpin these crises in the United States through their market and nonmarket activities.
  • On the basis of this analysis, we make recommendations on the role of governance and civil society in relation to such commercial actors in a post-COVID-19 world.

The United States finds itself amid three concurrent and interrelated crises. First, at the time of writing, the United States has reported more than 27 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 500,000 Americans have lost their lives. Second, in part as a consequence of the physical distancing measures enacted to slow the spread of the pandemic, the United States has faced record unemployment, a rise in the number of Americans unable to afford medical insurance, an end to federal support measures, and an uncertain economic outlook. According to the US Department of Labor, more than 50 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits since the COVID-19 pandemic started; more than 10 million Americans remain on state unemployment benefits. Third, the country is still contending with how to respond to mass civil protests in 2020 unlike any seen in half a century, triggered by the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis. This civil unrest reflects centuries of structural racism and has brought unprecedented attention to this problem.

In each of these three concurrent crises, the pandemic, ongoing large-scale unemployment, and civil protests, the US federal response has been criticized as being delayed and poorly coordinated, involving downplaying the threat posed by the pandemic and building on longer-term failures by previous administrations to make investments in public goods that may have facilitated a more robust and effective collective response.

Open Access

Maani N, van Schalkwyk MC, Petticrew M, Galea S. The Commercial Determinants of Three Contemporary National Crises: How Corporate Practices Intersect with the COVID-19 Pandemic, Economic Downturn, and Racial Equity. Milbank Q. 503-518.