The Need for Bold Action to Prevent Adolescent Obesity

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation invests in research aimed at halting the rise in childhood obesity. This article, part of a supplement presenting obesity research, argues that society must improve default attitudes to reduce the prevalence of adolescent obesity.

Default beliefs determine what society does, for example, the allocation of resources and the creation of policy to address a given public health issue. Poor defaults lead to ineffectual policies. This article discusses defaults in the context of adolescent obesity. The topics include: framing the obesity issue; marketing of unhealthy foods to adolescents; the prohibitive expense of family-based treatment and the resulting need for prevention; and consequences with regard to peer teasing of obese adolescents.

Key Findings:

  • Officials should alter the perception that obesity is only a matter of personal responsibility. That belief ignores the possibility that environmental conditions might contribute to unhealthy eating habits.
  • Preventing childhood obesity could have the additional benefit of preventing eating disorders.

This article sifts through the conflicting viewpoints and societal attitudes toward obesity. The authors cite established research to challenge assumptions about the causes of obesity.