The Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) at the American University of Beirut (AUB) hosted the 2019 annual meeting of the Governance, Ethics, and Conflicts of Interest in Public Health Network (GECI-PH), which brought together more than twenty renowned public health researchers and experts in industry interference and conflict of interest from more than ten countries.
The Network, which includes 75 members from all over the world, was established as a result of the global tendency of increasing engagement in public-private partnerships without attention to governance, ethics, and conflicts of interest in these relationships. The Network aims to : (i) Share, collate, promote and foster knowledge of industry interference in public health, research, policy, practice and education; (ii) Document the governance, ethical, and COI issues that arise in the interaction between public health research, practice, and policy and industry involvement; (iii) Build capacity, set research priorities, and act as a forum for collaboration between researchers and civil society actors relevant to GECI'; (iv)Strengthen relationships with advocacy organizations at multiple levels of governance; (v) Advocate for research and action to advance aims and objectives of the GECI network; (vi) Foster policy dialogue, and promote evidence use through knowledge translation, monitoring and evaluation, and evidence tools.
The meeting was held for the second consecutive year as part of the project “Building Scholarship to Guide Decisions and Governance for Ethical and Responsible Interactions between Public Health and Corporate Actors." This project, funded by the International Research and Development Center (IDRC), is aimed at contributing to the body of knowledge on the challenges, opportunities, trade-offs, and essential elements of interaction between public health and corporate actors. From 25 to 27 March 2019, theGECI-PH Network members' three-day meeting focused on three pillars: (i) defining the research agenda of the group; (ii) reviewing best practices in network governance, lessons learned from other networks; and (iii) agreeing on a GECI-PH governance structure and process.
In the same framework, the Gamma Delta Chapter of the Delta Omega Society at FHS organized a panel discussion entitled “Corporate Interference in Public Health Research policy and practice: Tactics and Counterstrategies" on March 27, 2019. The panelists: Dr. Niamh Fitzgerald, University of Stirling; Dr. Angela Carriedo, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; Prof. Elie Akl, AUB; and Prof. Leslie London, University of Cape Town, discussed common strategies that the corporate sector use to impact public health researchers, practitioners and policy makers, as well as ways to overcome these negative interferences and the conflict of interest arising from the interaction with them.
The panelists, discussed corporate interference in alcohol consumption and advertising in Ireland by Dr. Fitzgerald; the partnerships between the academic institutions and the tobacco industry by Prof. London; the pressure exercised by corporations on policy makers in the field of food and nutrition in Mexico by Dr. Carriedo; and the interference of Pharmaceutical industries in physicians practice and medical and public health research by Prof. Akl.
The panel discussion was very interactive, and was concluded with a rich Q&A session allowing students, professors, and researchers to share their thoughts, concerns and questions on the issues discussed.