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Plenary presentation at the 4th European Forum for Evidence Based Health Promotion and Prevention

Press clipping: Research

Publication date18/06/13

As part of his work on the I.Family project, Garrath Williams has delivered a plenary lecture entitled 'Obesity Prevention: Dividing Responsibiliities for Action.' The full talk and questions can be seen at: http://topevent.gewinn.com/session2a/Player.html.

His lecture tackled some general difficulties in dividing and sharing responsibilities to address complex social problems. It highlighted a series of reasons why it is so difficult to address a problem like obesity prevention. Since obesity is, in part, a side-effect of otherwise desirable social changes, addressing it is likely to involve sacrifices or tradeoffs. This also requires us to reimagine how our societies are organised; despite our best efforts to gather evidence, we cannot be certain in advance what the costs and benefits will be. Not least, it requires us to constrain the power of the food and drink industries: since companies have a legal duty to pursue profitability, sensible regulation will be needed to make their activities less liable to generate obesity. But the talk also pointed to some reasons for optimism. First, it has been relatively easy to secure consensus that obesity prevention should have a greater priority - partly (and unfortunately) because of social prejudice against fat. Second, many societal changes that might address obesity might also serve existing or emerging priorities – from children's independence to sustainability or improved food cultures.