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Obes Rev. 2018 Mar;19(3):295-301. doi: 10.1111/obr.12639. Epub 2017 Dec 18.

Childhood obesity policies - mighty concerns, meek reactions.

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Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen K, Denmark.



The increasing number of children defined as overweight or obese is causing concern among politicians and health advocates; several countries have launched policies addressing the issue.


The paper presents an analysis of how the childhood obesity is defined, explained and suggested policies to address the problem from the WHO, the EU, Canada, England and New Zealand.


Considering the dramatic language used when describing childhood obesity, the proposed interventions are modest. Either the politicians do not consider the problem that great after all, or other concerns, such as the freedom of the food and drink industry and local authorities, are seen as more important. The causes identified are multiple and varied, including the physical and commercial environment, whereas the interventions primarily address the information level of the population, placing responsibility on the shoulders of the parents. Only the World Health Organization argues that statutory measures are required, and the English Government suggests one: a levy on sugary drinks. Otherwise, local authorities, schools and the industry are expected to act on a voluntary basis. Very little is explicitly substantiated by evidence, and the evidence cited is sometimes misinterpreted or disregarded.


There is a discrepancy between how the problem of childhood obesity is presented as alarming and the modest measures suggested.


Childhood obesity; evidence; policies; responsibility


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