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





English Also available in: French

Obesity: Past and Projected Future Trends

Obesity has risen to epidemic proportions in OECD countries during the last 30 years. In this chapter, the development of the epidemic is discussed in the light of evidence from a range of OECD countries. After a comparative overview of current obesity rates in OECD and selected non-OECD countries, the recent obesity epidemic is set in the context of historical developments in height, weight and body mass index (BMI). Using BMI as the reference measure to identify individuals who are overweight or obese, a detailed analysis is presented of how rates have grown in OECD countries in the past 30 years, accounting for differences in the likelihood of obesity across birth cohorts. The final section of this chapter presents OECD projections of further growth of overweight and obesity rates in the next ten years in adults and children.

English Also available in: French

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