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Obesity Fight Needs Wider Action Led by Health Sector

Focus on individual ignores role of social structure

FRIDAY, Dec. 14 (HealthDay News) -- The policy agenda to tackle obesity should shift focus toward the wider social factors and inequalities within and between countries that are fueling the global obesity epidemic, according to an article published in the Dec. 15 issue of BMJ.

Sharon Friel, Ph.D., of University College London in the U.K., and colleagues write that in developed countries obesity is more prevalent among socially disadvantaged groups, whereas in low-income countries the opposite is true. They highlight the role that the medical community plays at the forefront of progressive changes in health and social policy, and call for a new policy agenda on obesity.

Whereas the current agenda focuses on diet and exercise at the individual level, the forces that underpin the obesity epidemic operate on national and international levels, such as the way food is produced, distributed and advertised, the natural and built environments, social stratification and aspects of the social environment such as living and working conditions, social norms and eating habits.

"The interconnected nature of the determinants of obesity implies the need for an integrated response comprising community level action and political will and investment," the authors write. "This requires joined-up action at global, national and local levels, bringing together the capacity of multiple sectors. The key to that dynamic relationship is stewardship by the health sector."

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