Bioethics leader calls for bold approach to fighting obesity

January 22, 2013

Arguing that obesity "may be the most difficult and elusive public health problem the United States has ever encountered" and that anti-obesity efforts having made little discernible difference, Daniel Callahan, co-founder and President Emeritus of The Hastings Center, proposes a bold and controversial approach to fighting the epidemic.

Callahan says that the public health community can learn from one of the most successful : the anti-. A primary strategy has been to stigmatize , he says, making it clear that their behavior is not only unhealthy for them but is also socially unacceptable. While the public health community has decisively rejected the of , Callahan directly challenges that rejection.

In "Obesity: Chasing an Elusive Epidemic," an article in the Hastings Center Report, Callahan says that what he calls "stigmatization lite," if used carefully, could provide an important strategy in the strikingly unsuccessful effort to help the 67 percent of Americans who are overweight or obese lose weight. He cites estimates that no more than 10 percent of those who try to lose weight succeed in the long run.

Callahan does not deny that stigmatization can do harm, such as increasing the risk of discrimination in the workplace and health care. But he believes that that risk would be minimized by "stigmatization lite," in which people who are overweight consider the threat of discrimination itself as a danger to be avoided: "don't let this happen to you!" His aim is to complement, not replace, public health strategies that would bring to bear a strong government hand, making use of laws and regulations and subsidizing healthy foods, good medical counseling, and special efforts at obesity prevention programs for children.

Explore further: Fighting obesity: Americans respond to positive messages, not shame

Related Stories

Are Americans ready to solve the weight of the nation?

August 1, 2012

In a Perspective article appearing in this week's New England Journal of Medicine, public health researchers examine how recommendations in a new report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM)—"Accelerating Progress in ...

Soda companies' PR campaigns are bad for health: experts

June 19, 2012

Health advocates need to organize strong public health campaigns to educate the public and policymakers about the dangers of both sugary beverages and the misleading industry corporate social responsibility campaigns that ...

Recommended for you

New target receptor discovered in the fight against obesity

November 25, 2016

The team of scientists from King's College London and Imperial College London tested a high-fat diet, containing a fermentable carbohydrate, and a control diet on mice and looked at the effect on food intake of those with ...

Does where you live affect what you weigh?

November 21, 2016

Adult obesity rates in the United States have reached epidemic proportions, with one in four people considered obese. Yet, obesity rates vary considerably across states and counties.

Skip dinner and maybe boost your metabolism

November 3, 2016

(HealthDay)—Overweight people who eat during a much smaller window of time each day than is typical report fewer hunger swings and burn slightly more fat at certain times during the night, according to a new study.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.