Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Obesity, equity and choice

Abstract

Obesity is often considered a public health crisis in rich countries that might be alleviated by preventive regulations such as a sugar tax or limiting the density of fast food outlets. This paper evaluates these regulations from the point of view of equity. Obesity is in many countries correlated with socioeconomic status and some believe that preventive regulations would reduce inequity. The puzzle is this: how could policies that reduce the options of the badly off be more equitable? Suppose we distinguish: (1) the badly off have poor options from (2) the badly off are poor at choosing between their options (ie, have a choosing problem). If obesity is due to a poverty of options, it would be perverse to reduce them further. Some people in public health say that preventive regulations do not reduce options but, I shall argue, they are largely wrong. So the equity case for regulations depends on the worst off having a choosing problem. It also depends on their having a choosing problem that makes their choices against their interests. Perhaps they do. I ask, briefly, what the evidence has to say about whether the badly off choose against their interests. The evidence is thin but implies that introducing preventive regulations for the sake of equity would be at least premature.

  • distributive justice
  • paternalism
  • political philosophy
  • public health ethics
View Full Text

Statistics from Altmetric.com

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Linked Articles

  • Response
    Elizabeth Fenton