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Obesity and the Economics of Prevention

Fit not Fat

image of Obesity and the Economics of Prevention

Before 1980, rates were generally well below 10%. They have since doubled or tripled in many countries, and in almost half of the OECD, 50% or more of the population is overweight.  A key risk factor for numerous chronic diseases, obesity is a major public health concern.   

This book contributes to evidence-based policy making by exploring multiple dimensions of the obesity problem. It examines the scale and characteristics of the epidemic, the respective roles and influence of market forces and governments, and the impact of interventions. It outlines an economic approach to the prevention of chronic diseases that provides novel insights relative to a more traditional public health approach. 

The analysis was undertaken by the OECD, partly in collaboration with the World Health Organization. The main chapters are complemented by special contributions from health and obesity experts, including Marc Suhrcke, Tim Lobstein, Donald Kenkel and Francesco Branca. 

“a valuable set of results and suggestions about the best preventive interventions to reduce the burden of obesity.”   – Julio Frenk, Dean, Harvard School of Public Health

 

“The positive message of this book is that the obesity epidemic can be successfully addressed.”   – Ala Alwan, Assistant Director-General, World Health Organization

 

“innovative and well-researched”  – Martin McKee, Professor, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine



"A timely, valuable volume on a critical issue.  Highly recommended."-Choice, July 2011

 

 

 

 

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How Does Obesity Spread?

The obesity epidemic is the result of multiple, complex and interacting dynamics, which have progressively converged to produce lasting changes in people’s lifestyles. Remarkable changes in the supply, availability and prices of food in the second half of the 20th century, in line with major changes in food production technologies and marketing approaches, decreased physical activity at work, and changes in labour markets and conditions heavily influenced lifestyles and contributed to the obesity epidemic. This chapter explores some of the key determinants of health and their role in the obesity epidemic. The question is addressed of whether the changes that fuelled obesity and chronic diseases are simply the outcome of efficient market dynamics, or the effect of market and rationality failures preventing individuals from achieving more desirable outcomes. Social multiplier effects (the clustering and spread of overweight and obesity within households and social networks) are shown to be especially relevant to the formulation of effective policies to tackle obesity.

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