Global failure to reverse obesity epidemic demands new ways of thinking

Global failure to reverse obesity epidemic demands new ways of thinking

Boston, MA ─ To combat the failure of countries to reverse the global obesity epidemic, authors of a new paper are calling for “smart food policies” by governments, alongside joint efforts from industry and society, to improve food environments and make healthy eating easier.


Lead author Christina Roberto, assistant professor of social and behavioral sciences and nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and colleagues call the view that obesity is driven by either personal choice or the environment a false dichotomy, and suggest that these competing perspectives be merged to show the reciprocal relationship between the individual person and the places where they live and eat.


The paper is one of a six-part series on obesity in The Lancet, published online February 18, 2015.


Global progress towards tackling obesity has been “unacceptably slow,” according to the series authors, with only one in four countries implementing a policy on healthy eating by 2010.


“While we need to acknowledge that individuals bear some responsibility for their health, we also need to recognize that today’s food environments exploit people’s vulnerabilities and make it easier to eat unhealthy foods,” said Roberto. “This reinforces preferences and demands for foods of poor nutritional quality, leading to environmental changes that further encourage consumption of unhealthy foods.”


Although there have been isolated pockets of progress, no country to date has reversed its obesity epidemic, according to Roberto and colleagues. Among the barriers to action are lobbying from the food industry, restricted ability or unwillingness of governments to implement policies, and an absence of pressure from civil society for political action.


The authors support the policy actions proposed in the NOURISHING framework created by the World Cancer Research Fund International to promote healthy diets. The framework covers three broad areas: the food environment (e.g., nutrition labeling, advertising restriction, and food taxes), the food system (e.g., supply-chain incentives for production), and behavior-change communication (e.g., nutrition-counseling interventions and public awareness campaigns).


Another paper in the series, co-authored by Steven Gortmaker, professor of the practice of health sociology at Harvard Chan School, calls attention to the rise of child overweight and obesity—substantial in high-income countries and now rapidly increasing in poorer countries. The authors of that paper call for more regulation of advertising to children in addition to integrated nutrition policies that tackle both obesity and malnutrition, which co-exist in children around the world.


Roberto, along with Kelly Brownell from Duke University, also co-authored a commentary as part of the series that proposes a model for tightening the flow of information between researchers and policy makers in order to ensure that research addresses issues relevant to policy and that research findings can inform decision-making.


“Patchy progress on obesity prevention: emerging examples, entrenched barriers, and new thinking,” Christina A. Roberto, Boyd Swinburn, Corinna Hawkes, Terry T-K Huang, Sergio A. Costa, Marice Ashe, Lindsey Zwicker, John H. Cawley, Kelly D. Brownell, The Lancet, online February 18, 2015, doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(14)61744-X.


Original article: Harvard

Send a Message

At this time, we are not currently accepting new patients for mental health/ psychiatry. You may request to be join a wait list for future consideration of a consultation appointment. Our sister company, Hello Hope Medical Weight Loss, is accepting new patients for weight management. You may contact us if you'd like to join the wait list for mental health at Lifesong Health. If you'd like to schedule a consultation for Hello Hope Medical Weight Loss, you may do so by clicking here 


We recommend that you do not include personal information in this form beyond a request for more information.

Contact Us

Note: Not Currently Accepting New Mental Health/ Psychiatric Patients. You may contact us if you'd like to be considered for future appointments on a wait list. For Medical Weight loss, our sister company Hello Hope is accepting consultations for this service at www.HelloHope.us