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Uneasy money: the Instituto Carlos Slim de la Salud, tobacco philanthropy and conflict of interest in global health
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  1. Tiffany Burch,
  2. Nathaniel Wander,
  3. Jeff Collin
  1. Global Public Health Unit, Social Policy, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  1. Correspondence to Nathaniel Wander, Senior Research Fellow, Global Public Health Unit, Social Policy, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, Chrystal Macmillan Building, 15a George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LD, UK; nathaniel.wander{at}ed.ac.uk

Abstract

In May 2007, the Instituto Carso de la Salud—now Instituto Carlos Slim de la Salud (ICSS)—was endowed with US$500 million to focus on priority health issues in Latin America, notably issues of ‘globalisation and non-communicable diseases’. ICSS was soon criticised, however, on the grounds that its funding was derived from tobacco industry profits and that its founder Carlos Slim Hélu remained an active industry principal. Collaboration with ICSS was said to run counter to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The Institute's then Executive President Julio Frenk disputed these charges. This research employs an archive of tobacco industry documents triangulated with materials from commercial, media, regulatory and NGO sources to examine the financial relations between Slim and the tobacco industry. The paper analyses Slim's continuing service to the industry and role in ICSS. It demonstrates a prima facie conflict of interest between ICSS's health mission and its founder's involvement in cigarette manufacturing and marketing, reflected on ICSS's website as a resounding silence on issues of tobacco and health. It is concluded that the reliance of international health agencies upon the commercial sector requires more robust institutional policies to effectively regulate conflicts of interest.

  • Global health
  • philanthropy
  • tobacco control
  • FCTC
  • conflict of interest
  • health services
  • public policy
  • qualitative study
  • tobacco products

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Footnotes

  • Linked article 040246.

  • Funding This paper was supported by a University of Edinburgh Tobacco Control Research Group fellowship and by US National Cancer Institute grant 2 RO1 CA091021-09.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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