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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Promoting Health and Fighting Chronic Diseases: What Impact on the Economy?

From a welfare economic perspective, the most relevant cost concept is the value individuals attribute to health in general and chronic disease in particular, elicited for example by analysing how people act or how they answer certain questions related to real or hypothetical situations involving a trade-off between money and health. It turns out that the social welfare benefit of health is much higher than the other more conventional (but incomplete) measures, and far too high to be ignored in public policy decisions (Viscusi and Aldy, 2003; Usher, 1973; Nordhaus, 2003; Costa and Kahn, 2003; Crafts, 2008). This value also captures the intrinsic value of health, a feature not shared by the other concepts.

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