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Obesity: Personal, Community, and Corporate Responsibility

Corporate responsibility in the matter of public health policy and obesity prevention has aroused considerable controversy for some time now. In a 2012 paper, Kelly Brownell warned of the “quicksand of appeasing the food industry.” On the opposite end of the spectrum, David Freedman wrote a 2013 cover story for The Atlantic describing “how junk food can end obesity.” Now a new analysis published in Current Obesity Reports by Martin Binks proposes a balance between personal, community, and corporate responsibility in policies aimed at preventing obesity.

Personal responsibility has often been used as a guise for heaping blame and shame upon people living with obesity. Yet people need empowerment and encouragement to overcome the challenges that obesity presents. Community and government action by itself has yielded limited measurable success to date in actually preventing a relentless rise in the prevalence of obesity.

In calling for a more balanced approach, Binks suggests that the food industry has resources that must be utilized:

The essential role of food industry in obesity prevention is unquestionable but fraught with a long and at times frustrated history. Several organizations, including Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Institute of Medicine, and the Obesity Society, have recently taken positions in favor of expanded  collaboration with the food industry. It is believed that with transparent, ethical, and appropriately governed interaction, progress in repairing our food supply chain to the extent that it contributes to obesity is possible.

The complexity of systems that are driving the excess of obesity will require individual, community, and corporate action. We can no longer afford to rely upon simplistic, single-sector strategies to reverse this problem.

Click here for the analysis by Binks, here for perspective from The Atlantic, and here for perspective from Brownell.

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May 31, 2016

2 Responses to “Obesity: Personal, Community, and Corporate Responsibility”

  1. May 31, 2016 at 6:25 am, Joe Gitchell said:

    From your fingertips to lots of peoples’ ears, Ted.

    Relatedly, here’s a worthwhile read from Cass Sunstein on “moral heuristics” (though I’m not all the way through it, yet):

    I suspect this will ring true to you as it does for me around nicotine. Not sure what the answers are, but having a better sense of the problem(s) can’t hurt!


    • May 31, 2016 at 7:34 am, Ted said:

      Excellent reference, Joe. Thanks!