The Politics of Obesity: A Current Assessment and Look Ahead
Article first published online: 11 MAR 2009
© 2009 Milbank Memorial Fund
Volume 87, Issue 1, pages 295–316, March 2009
How to Cite
KERSH, R. (2009), The Politics of Obesity: A Current Assessment and Look Ahead. Milbank Quarterly, 87: 295–316. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-0009.2009.00556.x
- Issue published online: 11 MAR 2009
- Article first published online: 11 MAR 2009
- Obesity politics;
- issue framing;
- calorie labeling;
- school nutrition;
- foods of minimal nutritional value (FMNV);
- issue regime
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.