Obesity The Irish Way: No Blame, No Shame

January 27th, 2012 by MorganDowney Leave a reply »

A few weeks ago I wrote about how Ireland is dealing with its obesity epidemic. I call it the “No Blame, No Shame” approach. Ever since my visit with the Irish government’s point person on obesity, I have been trying to think about “obesity” without thinking about “blame”. I recall that the first media call when I took over the American Obesity Association asked me, “Who is to Blame?” It seems to me still that we cannot move beyond blame.

So, it was with some interest that I read this report from The Lancet about the British Government’s new approach to move from nudging patients to a healthier lifestyle to nagging them which The Lancet’s editors predicted will be a failed policy. Public health in England: from nudge to nag : The Lancet

On the other hand, this editorial in the Irish Times points out something I think is obvious:

“Negative lifestyle messages lead to stigmatisation, victim-blaming and health inequalities. Discussing obesity and diabetes as if these problems are the individual’s fault stigmatises people with weight problems. Everyone may feel fearful when listening to health experts being interviewed about the latest lifestyle report, but only those in the higher socio-economic groups are able to comply with the message to, say, eat more fruit and veg. Poor people stay scared with no way of alleviating their fear. Telling people to exercise more is pointless if they live in an area with no facilities and no footpaths”. Forget lifestyle advice, it’s policy that matters – The Irish Times – Tue, Jan 03, 2012

The editorial goes on to call on the government to enact policies which change the food/physical activity environment.

Nagging or positive improvements? What’s the choice?