Childhood Obesity: Ethical and Policy Issues

Front Cover
Childhood obesity has become a central concern in many countries and a range of policies have been proposed or implemented to address it. This co-authored book is the first to focus on the complex set of ethical and policy issues that childhood obesity raises. Throughout the book, authors Kristin Voigt, Stuart G. Nicholls, and Garrath Williams emphasize the need to take a thorough and balanced look at the intricacies of the ethical and political questions surrounding childhood obesity before advocating particular solutions. After first addressing the factual controversies about childhood obesity, the authors explore crucial ethical questions. What priority should be given to preventing obesity? To what extent are parents responsible? What can be done prevent the social stigma attached to obese children? Moving on from these discussions, in the second part of their book the authors consider key policy topics, such as the concept of the 'obesogenic environment,' debates about taxation and marketing, and the role that schools can play in obesity prevention. Although many people are aware of the increasing rates of childhood obesity and the dangerous health implications of these upward trends, there has not yet been a political debate on the topic. The authors argue that such a debate will be crucial to deciding what priority to give to the fight against childhood obesity and dividing responsibilities for action. There is reason for hope: opportunities for action abound and many of these promise wider social benefits beyond obesity prevention itself. "This book provides a welcome re-appraisal of commonly-held beliefs about child obesity and misconceptions about what needs to be done. The authors expose the futility of holding parents responsible for children's unhealthy behaviour, they challenge the assumption that education and family support will solve the problem, and they condemn the prejudice and stigma which surround the narrative of blame. The book shows convincingly how the causes of obesity - and the range of associated diseases - lie in the fabric of the modern market economy: in the food supply which shapes our diets, the social and physical environment which encourages sedentary behaviour, and in the media which promote ever greater consumption. Obesity is not the problem: it is the symptom of a more complex social and economic malaise encouraging poor health. The case for interventions by governments to promote health and wellbeing above crude economic growth is comprehensively proven." - Dr. Tim Lobstein, Director of Policy and Programmes, The International Association for the Study of Obesity and The International Obesity Task Force

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I Major Ethical Topics
II Policy Domains

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About the author (2014)

Kristin Voigt is an Assistant Professor at McGill University, jointly appointed in the Department of Philosophy and the Institute for Health and Social Policy. Her research focuses on egalitarian theories of distributive justice and the links between philosophy and social policy.

Stuart Nicholls is a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Epidemiology & Community Medicine, University of Ottawa. His research broadly considers socio-ethical issues in public health, with a particular interest in population screening.

Garrath Williams is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Lancaster University, UK. He studied philosophy, politics and health care ethics at Manchester University, and continues to research in all three areas. He has a special interest in the philosophy of responsibility, and participates in collaborative European research on children and health.

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