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Ann Hum Biol. 2018 May;45(3):285-294. doi: 10.1080/03014460.2018.1459838.

Body size, body norms and some unintended consequences of obesity intervention in the Pacific islands.

Author information

1
a Department of Sociology and Anthropology, School of Social Science , Pacific University , Forest Grove , OR , USA.
2
b Research Associate , Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford , Oxford , UK.
3
c School of Human Evolution and Social Change , Arizona State University , Tempe , AZ , USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Pacific Islanders have experienced over 50 years of obesity interventions-the longest of any region in the world. Yet, obesity-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) continue to rise. 'Traditional' body norms have been cited as barriers to these interventions.

AIM:

In this study, we ask: 'What is the relationship between health interventions, body norms and people's experience of "fatness"? How - and why - have these changed over time?' We study two nations with high rates of obesity: Nauru and Samoa.

SUBJECTS AND METHODS:

Ethnographic fieldwork with people in everyday and clinical settings in Samoa (2011-2012; 2017) and Nauru (2010-2011).

RESULTS:

Body norms are not a single or universal set of values. Instead, multiple cultural influences-including global health, local community members and global media-interact to create a complex landscape of contradictory body norms.

CONCLUSIONS:

Body norms and body size interventions exist in an iterative relationship. Our findings suggest that Pacific island obesity interventions do not fail because they conflict with local body norms; rather, they fail because they powerfully re-shape body norms in ways that confuse and counteract their intended purpose. Left unacknowledged, this appears to have (unintended) consequences for the success of anti-obesity interventions.

KEYWORDS:

Body norms; Pacific islands; intervention; obesity; social change

PMID:
29877154
DOI:
10.1080/03014460.2018.1459838
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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