This article deals with the phenomenon of obesity in contemporary Italian society. It is based on the fieldwork carried out during the year 2005 within the European Union-funded project ‘PorGrow: policy options for responding to obesity’ (see: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/spru/PorGrow).
The most recent statistical data on the spread of overweight and obesity in Italian society reveal that the phenomenon has reached a dimension that, albeit not as serious as in other Western countries, constitutes a serious threat to public health and to the national budget.
The panel of stakeholders interviewed for this research showed awareness of this issue and generally agreed on the necessity to adopt a very multifaceted portfolio of policy measures to address the problem. Participants frequently regarded educational policies as the highest priority, followed by informational measures and infrastructural actions. Fiscal policy options were widely considered ineffective and unacceptable, and little enthusiasm was shown for technological innovations.
In sum, while interviewees saw a real need for improved food habits on the part of Italian citizens, nonetheless in a country affected by many criticalities, the weakness of political will and the pressure of fast food culture remain severe obstacles in the fight against overweight and obesity.