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

The Social Dimensions of Obesity

The social impacts of obesity are addressed in this chapter in terms of the concentration of obesity in certain population groups and of the consequences of obesity on labour market outcomes. The first part of the chapter provides evidence of disparities in obesity along demographic characteristics, such as age and gender, as well as social dimensions, such as education, socio-economic status and ethnicity. Differences in the likelihood of overweight and obesity among groups defined along those dimensions are presented and discussed, and comparisons across OECD countries are made in the size of social disparities in obesity. Evidence is also presented of social disparities by socio-economic status and ethnicity in children, based on data from four OECD countries. The second part of the chapter contains a comprehensive review of the existing evidence of disparities in labour market outcomes between the obese and people of normal weight. The final section presents ample evidence of a disadvantage suffered, particularly by obese women, in employment, earnings and productivity.

English Also available in: French

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