Is Obesity a Public Health Problem?

Public Health Ethics, Vol. 5, No. 3, 2012

6 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2013

Date Written: December 1, 2012


It is often claimed that there is an obesity epidemic in affluent countries, and that obesity is one of the most serious public health threats in the developed world. I will argue that obesity is not an 'epidemic' in any useful sense of the word, and that classifying it as a public health problem requires us to make fairly controversial moral and empirical assumptions. While epidemiological evidence suggests that the prevalence of obesity is on the rise, and that obesity can lead to serious health problems ranging from diabetes to cardiovascular disease, this does not by itself show that obesity is a public health problem.

Keywords: obesity, public health, public goods

Suggested Citation

Anomaly, Jonathan, Is Obesity a Public Health Problem? (December 1, 2012). Public Health Ethics, Vol. 5, No. 3, 2012, Available at SSRN:

Jonathan Anomaly (Contact Author)

Duke University ( email )

100 Fuqua Drive
Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States

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