Business, markets and the social context of health

The business of better health: Understanding the interconnected roles of business, social context and consumer behaviour in improving health.

Food marketing has long been implicated in the obesity epidemic. So too have consumers themselves, whom many argue should be held responsible for their own consumption choices. There are also those who believe ‘society' has a case to answer, or that governments must do more to encourage or even legislate healthier lifestyles.
Most of us would agree that some combination of these – or, more accurately, the complex relationship between them all – is to blame for our dangerously expanding waistlines. But what can be done?

The exact nature of the relationship between particular business strategies, social contexts and the related consumer behaviours that have accelerated the increase in obesity among certain groups – and how this might be influenced to achieve more positive health outcomes – is the focus of a new cross-disciplinary research group established by the Charles Perkins Centre.

While research groups with a focus on obesity already exist, they tend to approach this complex issue from the perspective of a single discipline. This new group, jointly led by marketing researcher Associate Professor Teresa Davis and transport and logistics researcher Professor Corinne Mulley, will take the unique approach of bringing together specialists from the complementary fields of business, marketing, media, consumer behaviour, law and transport planning to examine consumer motivations within social contexts, the effects of various business practices on consumption choices, the legal and ethical aspects of consumer protection and the effects of transport planning on health.

The group’s aim is to identify and promote the implementation of effective legislation, policy, marketing, transport planning and other practices that will lead to positive rather than negative health outcomes. It will focus in particular on understanding how and why people engage in certain behaviours with respect to food, activity and transport, and how our risk of disease is affected by our individual psychological, educational, cultural and economic circumstances.

The findings of this important multidisciplinary research will enable policymakers to harness the complex relationships between business, society and consumers to actively promote better health.

Project leaders

Dr Teresa Davis is an Associate Professor within the University Business School with research interests in the relationship between advertising and marketing of food and is the co-convenor of the Australian, Food, Culture and Society Network.

Professor Corinne Mulley is the founding Chair in Public Transport at the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies at the University of Sydney.

The collaboration team



Professor Gail Pearson

Discipline of Business Law

Professor Elizabeth Cowley

Discipline of Marketing

Professor Ellen Garbarino

Discipline of Marketing

Oliviera Marjanovic

The University of Sydney Business School

Dimitra Groutsis

The University of Sydney Business School