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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Information, Incentives and Choice: A Viable Approach to Preventing Obesity

The basic biological causes and health effects of obesity have been common knowledge and a focus of public health concern since the mid-20th century. Still, little has been effective in slowing the upward trends of obesity in OECD populations. Adapting efficient solutions to this problem requires an understanding of the complex, interrelated factors that contribute to overweight and obesity, and the equally complex mix of tools that can remove or mitigate these causes. This chapter presents a discussion of critical factors in the design and implementation of effective prevention strategies, including considerations on how social norms form and evolve, as well as how individual approach and population approaches to chronic disease prevention can work together in the case of obesity. The chapter also discusses in further depth the meaning of a multi-stakeholder approach to prevention and the potential effects of government action on individual choice.

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