How extractive industries affect health: Political economy underpinnings and pathways

In Health & Place (2018), Vol 52, p135-147 (open access)


Ted Schrecker; Anne-Emanuelle Birn & Mariajosé Aguilera


A systematic and theoretically informed analysis of how extractive industries affect health outcomes and health inequities is overdue. Informed by the work of Saskia Sassen on “logics of extraction,” we adopt an expansive definition of extractive industries to include (for example) large-scale foreign acquisitions of agricultural land for export production.

To ground our analysis in concrete place-based evidence, we begin with a brief review of four case examples of major extractive activities. We then analyze the political economy of extractivism, focusing on the societal structures, processes, and relationships of power that drive and enable extraction. Next, we examine how this global order shapes and interacts with politics, institutions, and policies at the state/national level contextualizing extractive activity.

Having provided necessary context, we posit a set of pathways that link the global political economy and national politics and institutional practices surrounding extraction to health outcomes and their distribution. These pathways involve both direct health effects, such as toxic work and environmental exposures and assassination of activists, and indirect effects, including sustained impoverishment, water insecurity, and stress-related ailments. We conclude with some reflections on the need for future research on the health and health equity implications of the global extractive order.

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The full text is available in open access on the publisher's website


Published June 11, 2018 10:28 AM - Last modified June 11, 2018 10:28 AM