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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

CUNY Studies Countermarketing

Drs. P. Christopher Palmedo and Nicholas Freudenberg, Professors at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, along with Ms. Sarah Garza, alumnae, Ms. Eleni Murphy, a current student, reviewed the potential for countermarketing to reduce the consumption of alcohol and unhealthy food products. The authors drew on the lessons learned from tobacco control. The findings were published in the journal Annual Review of Public Health.

[Photo: Dr. P. Christopher Palmedo]

[Photo: Dr. Nicholas Freudenberg]

The goal of countermarketing is to reduce demand for unhealthy products by exposing the motives of producers. A key component of health-related countermarketing is highlighting the process of marketing toxic products to populations already struggling with health problems such as cancer, obesity, diabetes, and hypertension.

The research team conducted a systematic review of countermarketing initiatives on tobacco, alcohol, or unhealthy food. Of the 94 studies warranting further review, 57 focused on tobacco, 19 on alcohol, and 18 on food. The team included projects for which sufficient information was available to determine whether activities met their definition of countermarketing, identifying 7 projects on alcohol and 9 on food. The aim was to assess whether the evidence-based practices identified in tobacco studies could advance the study of countermarketing for alcohol and unhealthy food.


[Photo: Ms. Sarah Garza (left) and Ms. Eleni Murphy (right)]

The key components of countermarketing campaigns include communicating the adverse health consequences, industry manipulation of consumers, appeal to negative emotions, disparagement of specific brands, tailoring campaigns by demographics or psychographics, criticizing industry targeting of vulnerable populations, the establishment of countermarketing campaign brand, and engaging users in all phases of the campaign.

The authors found that while the data are plentiful for tobacco, there are very little empirical data available for soda, food, and alcohol.