Obesity, Business and Public Policy

Obesity, Business and Public Policy

Edited by Zoltán J. Ács and Alan Lyles

The effects of obesity have become practically ubiquitous in the US. This book aims to provide an alternative framework through which to explore the important and controversial obesity debate that has spilled over from the medical community. This book is not about obesity as a medical condition, nor does it offer a wide-ranging discussion on the health effects of obesity or the role of the ‘right’ diet.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Zoltan J. Acs and Alan Lyles

Subjects: business and management, organisational behaviour, public management, economics and finance, behavioural and experimental economics, welfare economics, politics and public policy, public administration and management, public policy


Zoltan J. Acs and Alan Lyles Our story begins a long time ago. Hansel and Gretel were walking in the woods. They came across a house made of candy that was inhabited by two witches who ate children. Most children in those days were very thin and had to be fattened up before they would provide a tasty meal, so the witches put Hansel in a cage and made Gretel feed him to fatten him up. A recent cartoon showed a modern-day rendition of the story with two plump children strolling in the woods who come upon the witches’ house. The older witch remarks to the other, ‘Remember when we used to have to fatten the kids first?’. Many people have worried about their weight for a long time (Wansink and Huckabee, 2005). But this was not a social issue. Some people were just overweight at least some of the time and most of the costs were internalized, that is, borne by the individual. Over the past 20 years a new trend has emerged – an increase in the prevalence of obesity.1 Obesity is a state of being that has serious health and economic consequences for both the individual and society at large. While a small percentage of the population has always been obese, the obese fraction of the population started to rise rapidly in the 1970s. Moreover, while obesity used to be a problem predominantly for older people, it has now moved down into the ranks of children. This...