and Robert Weissman
great thing about the American Public Health Association (APHA) is in its name
– it’s about public health — what we as a society do to assure the conditions
in which people can be healthy.
we were to choose a steward for the public health, we would, without hesitation,
choose the APHA over, say, the American Medical Association (AMA).
one sad example in 1997, the AMA cut a deal to endorse Sunbeam medical products
in return for royalty payments in the millions. This policy seemed to say,
"Not only are we in favor of turning health care over to for-profit
corporations, we are in favor of turning our organization over to for-profit
corporations." (Following a huge public outcry, that deal was eventually
rescinded and the AMA vice president who cut the deal resigned in disgrace.)
it is the APHA which stands for public health.
were thinking about this the other day, walking past APHA’s gorgeous new $13
million headquarters building in the Chinatown section of Washington, D.C. We
went into the lobby, said hello to the staff, and picked up the annual report.
we learned that earlier this year, the APHA accepted a $1 million grant from
Colgate Palmolive, that consumer giant that brings you Colgate toothpaste, Irish
Spring soap, Palmolive dishwashing soap, Speed Stick deodorant.
to the annual report, the money was used, in part, to launch a national public
health education campaign, "Lather Up for Good Health." Under the
campaign, APHA and Colgate Palmolive distributed 100,000 "handwashing
a press conference in Washington, D.C. last week, we ran into Mohammed Akhter,
APHA’s executive director.
wanted to know what he thought Colgate Palmolive’s interest was in donating
$200,000 a year over five years.
do not accept money with any strings attached," Akhter said. "They
gave us the money to do education about maternal-child health."
they get nothing directly," Akhter said. "They gave us the money to do
education about maternal-child health. So, one interest is goodwill — the
company gets on the good side of mothers and children. And through this they
sell more of their products — toothpaste, soaps and such."
he concerned about undue influence of a giant private corporation over an
organization designed to promote "public" health?
is America," Akhter said. "America’s whole structure is built on
business. But we say that if there are funds that come to us from a corporation
that has a bad environmental record, has poor public health practices, poor
occupational practices, poor labor practices, we will not accept the money. Or
if there is a string attached, we will not accept the money. If someone tells
me, ‘Sell my sugar and I will give you a million dollars,’ I will say no."
said that he was approached recently by GlaxoWellcome. The multinational
pharmaceutical giant wanted to donate $100,000 a year for two or three years.
said that Glaxo’s involvement with the drug industry’s efforts to block
widespread use of HIV/AIDS drugs in the Third World eliminated the company from
consideration. "We said we will not do this," Akhter said. "Don’t
come to us looking for support for this drug issue."
said that Eli Lilly has given $30,000 or so a year for a number of years. And
Merck donates the bags to carry the programs and other materials for APHA’s
30,000 members at its annual convention.
members of APHA are concerned about the organization’s upcoming first ever fund
raising campaign to help pay for the building and APHA’s $12 million a year
Goldsmith, professor of health policy at SUNY Stonybrook, is a former APHA
executive board member. Goldsmith believes that APHA should build the
organization, not by raking in corporate dollars, but by aggressively pushing a
public health agenda and bringing in new members.
not opposed to getting five or ten thousand from companies who are involved in
health care as nutritional organizations, or as food organizations, or insurance
companies," he told us. "But when you start talking about hundreds of
thousands of dollars or millions, then that becomes a big chunk of the budget
and that becomes a problem. You start relying on that money. And APHA executive
board members, well-meaning public health people who are worried about the
survival of their organization, will be swayed to take the money and take the
organization in a direction away from public health."
said that he heard from "less than 2 percent of the membership" after
news of the Colgate Palmolive $1 million grant broke telling him, "be
said, ‘We don’t want the money.’ They said, ‘Be careful. APHA is not for
we are concerned that by accepting the $1 million from Colgate Palmolive, the
message has been sent: if not for sale, then for rent.
Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter.
Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor.
They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the
Attack on Democracy (Common Courage Press, 1999, http://www.corporatepredators.org).