We focus on a number of topic areas identified by state health policy leaders as important to population health.
Keep up with news and updates from the Milbank Memorial Fund. Get the latest from thought leaders, including Christopher F. Koller, president of the Fund.
We publish The Milbank Quarterly, as well as reports, issues briefs, and case studies on topics important to population health.
The Center for Evidence-based Policy at Oregon Health & Science University is a national leader in evidence-based decision making and policy design.
The Milbank Memorial Fund is an endowed operating foundation that publishes The Milbank Quarterly, commissions projects, and convenes state health policy decision makers on issues they identify as important to population health.
March 2009 (Volume 87)
March 2009 | Lisa M. Powell, Frank J. Chaloupka
Context: Pricing policies have been posited as potential policy instruments to address the increasing prevalence of obesity. This article examines whether altering the cost of unhealthy, energy-dense foods, compared with healthy, less-dense foods through the use of fiscal pricing (tax or subsidy) policy instruments would, in fact, change food consumption patterns and overall diet enough to significantly reduce individuals’ weight outcomes.
Methods: This article examined empirical evidence regarding the food and restaurant price sensitivity of weight outcomes based on a literature search to identify peer-reviewed English-language articles published between 1990 and 2008. Studies were identified from the Medline, PubMed, Econlit, and PAIS databases. The fifteen search combinations used the terms obesity, body mass index, and BMI each in combination with the terms price, prices, tax, taxation, and subsidy.
Findings: The studies reviewed showed that when statistically significant associations were found between food and restaurant prices (taxes) and weight outcomes, the effects were generally small in magnitude, although in some cases they were larger for low-socioeconomic status (SES) populations and for those at risk for overweight or obesity.
Conclusions: The limited existing evidence suggests that small taxes or subsidies are not likely to produce significant changes in BMI or obesity prevalence but that nontrivial pricing interventions may have some measurable effects on Americans’ weight outcomes, particularly for children and adolescents, low-SES populations, and those most at risk for overweight. Additional research is needed to be able to draw strong policy conclusions regarding the effectiveness of fiscal-pricing interventions aimed at reducing obesity.
Author(s): Lisa M. Powell; Frank J. Chaloupka
Keywords: obesity; body mass index; food prices; taxes; subsidies
Read on Wiley Online Library
Read on JSTOR
Volume 87, Issue 1 (pages 229–257)
Published in 2009
The Perils of Ignoring History: Big Tobacco Played Dirty and Millions Died. How Similar is Big Food?
Public Health Law and the Prevention and Control of Obesity
Get the Latest from the Milbank Memorial Fund