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Policy change needed in fighting obesity epidemic

Armen Hareyan's picture

Obesity help

A different policy agenda from the one currently being promoted is required to tackle the global obesity epidemic, argue a team of international researchers in this week's BMJ.

Rather than focusing on making individuals eat more healthily and be more physically active, they call for wider action to tackle the unequal social distribution of obesity within and between countries.

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They look at how the conditions within which people trade, live, and work affect health, through their influence on behaviour and weight. These include food subsidies, advertising, urban planning, employment, and social structure.

Unless this is addressed, the obesity epidemic and its inequalities will persist and possibly increase, they warn.

The need for wider policy action is being recognised, they say. For example, the WHO's global strategy on diet, physical activity, and health identifies the social determinants of the obesity epidemic and in Europe ministers have committed to balancing responsibility between individuals and society.

The recent UK Foresight Report also highlights that most drivers of obesity are societal issues and therefore require societal responses.

But, despite these efforts, the global obesity epidemic continues and its social gradient persists, they write. Tackling it requires concerted action at global, national and local levels to promote a more equal distribution of affordable nutritious food, and improved more equitable living and working conditions. The health professions are key to spearheading such an effort, they conclude.