The Politics of Obesity: A Current Assessment and Look Ahead

Context: The continuing rise in obesity rates across the United States has proved impervious to clinical treatment or public health exhortation, necessitating policy responses. Nearly a decade’s worth of political debates may be hardening into an obesity issue regime, comprising established sets of cognitive frames, stakeholders, and policy options.
Methods: This article is a survey of reports on recently published studies.
Findings: Much of the political discussion regarding obesity is centered on two “frames,” personal-responsibility and environmental, yielding very different sets of policy responses. While policy efforts at the federal level have resulted in little action to date, state and/or local solutions such as calorie menu labeling and the expansion of regulations to reduce unhealthy foods at school may have more impact.
Conclusions: Obesity politics is evolving toward a relatively stable state of equilibrium, which could make comprehensive reforms to limit rising obesity rates less feasible. Therefore, to achieve meaningful change, rapid-response research identifying a set of promising reforms, combined with concerted lobbying action, will be necessary.

Author(s): Rogan Kersh

Keywords: obesity politics; issue framing; calorie labeling; school nutrition; foods of minimal nutritional value (FMNV); reformulation; issue regime

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Volume 87, Issue 1 (pages 295–316)
DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0009.2009.00556.x
Published in 2009