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Obes Rev. 2003 May;4(2):115-9.

Dusting off the epidemiological triad: could it work with obesity?

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School of Health Sciences, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia.


The search for effective ways of dealing with obesity has centred on biological research and clinical management. However, obesity needs to be conceptualized more broadly if the modern pandemic is to be arrested. The epidemiological triad (hosts, agent/vectors and environments) has served us well in dealing with epidemics in the past, and may be worth re-evaluating to this end. Education, behaviour change and clinical practices deal predominantly with the host, although multidisciplinary practices such as shared-care might also be expected to impact on other corners of the triad. Technology deals best with the agent of obesity (energy imbalance) and it's vectors (excessive energy intake and/or inadequate energy expenditure), and policy and social change are needed to cope with the environment. The value of a broad model like this, rather than specific isolated approaches, is that the key players such as legislators, health professionals, governments and industry can see their roles in attenuating and eventually reversing the epidemic. It also highlights the need to intervene at all levels in obesity control and reduces the relevance of arguments about nature vs. nurture.

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