Obesity, Business and Public Policy
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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.
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Chapter 8: The Infrastructure of Obesity

Zoltan J. Acs, Ann Cotten and Kenneth R. Stanton


Zoltan J. Acs, Ann Cotten, Kenneth R. Stanton1 INTRODUCTION The accelerating growth rate in obesity prevalence appears very unlikely to slow on its own. Our review of the evidence and surrounding literature suggests that the increase is driven by an infrastructure of obesity that is firmly established, especially in the USA. This infrastructure includes an oversupply in the production of food, an increased supply of processed food, a growing fast food industry and an increasing reliance on urban sprawl. In tandem with the growing supply of cheap foods, marketers have devised increasingly persuasive strategies to encourage greater consumption. They have intensified their advertising of predominantly unhealthy foods and beverages through traditional media, with a noticeably heavy focus on reaching children. However, of greater concern are the strategies of placing soda and snack vending machines in schools. These strategies are very successful in cultivating lifelong habits of shifting to unhealthy diet choices. It is not that this danger is unrecognized but, in many cases, the contracts are sufficiently lucrative for the schools themselves that school administrators strongly resist any suggestions to remove vending machines and other sources of unhealthy foods. We do not rule out the possibility that the growth rate in obesity prevalence could accelerate even further, nor do we deny that the adoption of healthier lifestyles or other factors could eventually slow the rate. However, the prospect seems unlikely given the scale of the obesity-conducive infrastructure that encourages greater supply, greater consumption and lower energy outputs. The...

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