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 6: Mixed Messages in Marketing Communications about Food and Obesity

Stephen J. Gould and Fiona Sussan

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


Stephen J. Gould and Fiona Sussan INTRODUCTION Obesity has been declared a public health epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) (Seiders and Petty, 2004). Moreover, it is not only a major health issue in the USA, but also worldwide due to economic, social and cultural convergence (Audretsch and DiOrio, 2006). However, even with this widespread recognition of the problems obesity presents, it remains a highly charged social issue bringing to bear a variety of crosscurrents and competing interests, especially when marketing factors are considered. In particular, this chapter focuses on the various currents of understandings; business interests and consumer behaviors related to food (and beverage) marketing; other product or services marketers (such as health clubs or diet supplement marketers); social marketers (such as governmental agencies and non-profit organizations); health care providers; and marketing communications. Food marketers promote the foods whether unhealthy or healthy while social marketers, other product marketers, and even the food marketers themselves, offer ideas about controlling or losing weight. Both types of marketers use marketing communications, which for our purposes here largely involve using advertising and publicity, to get their messages across to targeted consumers. To set the stage for considering these issues, it is necessary to take a step back and look at some of the underlying dynamics of obesity that drive them. One facet that needs to be considered involves the idea of genetic heritage versus cultural factors, self-care and self-responsibility, and related processes of self-regulation (Cottam, 2004). As in many...

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