Obesity is not just poor choices, it’s about public policy: Lancet

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Obese woman
Experts say Obesity is because govt. allows companies to sell unhealthy food

New article by public health experts calls for multisectoral approach on obesity

Is obesity a matter of individual responsibility or a matter of faulty public policy? If you are obese and feel guilty about it, take heart.

Because in a new piece in The Lancet, some of the best known public health professionals in the world have argued the latter.

Obesity, they say is a matter of an environment of lax regulation where companies pushing salty snack and sugary drinks stay untaxed.

In 2016, more than a third of adults worldwide were classified as overweight or living with obesity, as were 41 million children younger than 5 years

The prevailing narrative wrongly portrays people with obesity in negative terms as “guilty” of obesity through “weakness” and “lack of willpower”, succumbing to the siren call of fast and other poor food choices. This narrative leads to stigmatisation, discrimination—including in health services, employment, and education—and undermines individual agency. The established narrative also oversimplifies and obfuscates the causes of obesity,” says the piece authored by experts from all over the world including UNAIDS, World Obesity Federation and the Public Health Foundation of India.

They argue: “For example, the food industry has engineered ultraprocessed foods with high levels of salt, sugar, and fats to enhance their addictive properties Moreover, the roles of the built environment and epigenetics in obesity do not get the attention they warrant.
In 2016, more than a third of adults worldwide were classified as overweight or living with obesity, as were 41 million children younger than 5 years.
The experts advocated a four pronged approach to tackle the problem.
“First, recognise that obesity requires multiple discrete actors and sectors to work together simultaneously through many entry points. Second, change the words and images used to portray obesity to shift blame away from individuals and towards upstream drivers. For example, photographs of anonymous or faceless people with obesity must be substituted with images of real people that foster respect and identification.”
They also called for prioritisation of childhood obesity and the growing burden of obesity in low-income settings.
“Rights-based policy approaches that address inequalities and social and physical determinants of obesity are particularly relevant. Finally, appreciate that obesity is a chronic disease within the health system, with both its prevention and management embedded within calls for effective and comprehensive universal health coverage globally,” the authors said.

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