A Stupid Obesity Blame Game

Whom Does the Public Blame for Obesity?Recent research published in Appetite shines a light on a stupid obesity blame game. And people with obesity are losing.

Jayson Lusk and Brenna Ellison measured the public perception of responsibility for the rise in obesity in a representative national sample of 800 adults. Individuals were assigned most of the blame, followed by parents and then food manufacturers. Farmers were considered blameless by 82% of respondents.

The public doesn’t really let food manufacturers and restaurants off the hook entirely. A clear majority find them at least somewhat to blame (82% for food manufacturers and 73% for restaurants). On the role of government policy, the public is truly split. Half don’t believe it’s even somewhat responsible, but half do. All these beliefs correlate with socioeconomic status and political economic ideology.

But the overall message is clear — people with obesity (and parents) lose the obesity blame game.

And that’s why it’s such a stupid game. In what other disease do we concern ourselves with whom to blame before we get to work on improving the health of those affected? Do we ask who’s to blame for heart disease? For breast cancer? We did it for a while with HIV, but the progress came from earnest efforts to treat the disease and prevent its spread.

Fixing blame on the people with obesity, restaurants, and the food industry is a zero-sum game. There’s plenty of blame to go around, but it really doesn’t matter. All three parties need to be part of the solution.

Click here to read more in Consumer Affairs, click here to read more from ConscienHealth, and click here to read the study. 

Pointing Finger, photograph © Leo Reynolds / flickr

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One Response to “A Stupid Obesity Blame Game”

  1. January 29, 2014 at 12:39 pm, WeightLossNYC said:

    Powerful result, quantifying cultural attitudes that objectify and hurt victims of obesity. It would be worthwhile for further breakdown into how others view their active reasons for obesity instead of a lump figure. Do they see people as being lazy? Unmotivated? Inactive? Overeating? Uninformed? Indifferent? In turn, how would individuals self-identify in such a study. Fortunately there are many pathways to success which ironically hinge on implicit participation. It is unfair individuals bear the criticism, yet the power to full health is in their hands.