Big Problems need Big Solutions

This morning I spoke at the Public Health’s WORK Lecture series on the Health Consequences of Obesity.

While I focused my presentation on the fact that obesity is a chronic disease and discussed some of the current treatment options, I also pointed out that there are currently no “proven” prevention strategies.

This is very much in line with the suggestion in the recent “Tackling Obesities Report” that perhaps some of the solutions to address the obesogenic environment would require substantial changes in major contributors such as transportation infrastructure and urban design. While more difficult and costly than targeting interventions in individuals or groups, such changes are more likely to affect multiple pathways in a far more sustainable way. (Similar things could be said about our food supply)

The challenge of course is creating public demand for such changes – as long as people prefer to drive their cars (or trucks) and prefer to live in low-density suburban neighbourhoods, we are a long way from any such changes.

Perhaps by more clearly aligning the health benefits with those arising from other socioeconomic goals such as reducing energy consumption, pollution, traffic congestion and crime rates we will not only reduce obesity but also produce a more environmentally sustainable society.

Is this likely to happen any time soon? Probably not.

Things may have to get a lot worse before they get better.