Body size, body norms and some unintended consequences of obesity intervention in the Pacific islands

A new study coauthored by Amy McLennan shows that while Pacific Islanders have experienced over 50 years of obesity interventions, such interventions mostly fail because they re-shape people’s body norms in ways that are confusing to them. The standard model of obesity intervention, involving  diet and exercise suggests a fairly straight attitudinal path to behaviour change: providing more information about the dangers of obesity will lead to changes in beliefs about and intentions toward diet/exercise; this, in turn, will lead to healthierbehaviours and choices. However, this doesn’t work in the Pacific Islands because the ways people understand and respond to concerns around obesity are far more complicated. These researchers suggests that health interventions incorporating multi-faceted data involving

social, cultural and economic evidence would probably perform better, than interventions which assume that body size, norms and experiences are individual characteristics or ‘factors’ that are within an individual’s power to control. They go on to say that interventions that focus only on body size measures may increase suffering and decrease their own effectiveness, and so be part of the problem.

Publication

Body size, body norms and some unintended consequences of obesity intervention in the Pacific islands

Jessica Hardin, Amy K. McLennan & Alexandra Brewis

Annals of Human Biology, 2018, 45:3, 285-294.

https://doi.org/10.1080/03014460.2018.1459838

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