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The Obesity Culture

: $37.50
Publisher / Author: Smith-Gordon
ISBN: 978-1-85463-225-8

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The Obesity Culture:  
Strategies for Change,  Public Health and University-Community-Partnerships

By:  Francis E. Johnston and Ira Harkavy, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Obesity is a social problem not a disease. And it cannot be solved by going down one single path. The authors argue it is a complex problem and one that requires cooperation in the communities with schools, colleges and universities playing a central part.

Millions if not billions are spent on medical and research resources in order to combat obesity. Obesity is viewed as the condition that breeds ill-health and early death via clogged arteries and diabetes – as well as possibly some cancers and many other diseases.

Public health experts, medical educators, obesity experts and political policy makers have brought knowledge and resources to bear in the campaign to reduce the incidence of obesity. It is nevertheless an increasing health problem in the better-off countries and in those that are developing. Doomsayers even predict that in some populations the associated Syndrome X will lead to a generation of children living less long than their parents.

How does the culture in countries with high levels of obesity contribute to the problem? How can ‘a culture of obesity’ be changed? The authors outline how this can be done through the participation of the community. They describe examples of such partnerships as the Urban Nutrition Initiative, the award-winning community partnership project of the University of Pennsylvania. Both in urban America and globally the authors conclude that obesity is most prevalent among disadvantaged citizens. Johnston and Harkavy present the case for change through community-based cooperation instead of prescription to tackle the culture of obesity.


(1). Introduction.  Why has action against obesity been unsuccessful?

(2). Obesity in the 21st Century.

(3). The burden of obesity.

(4). Obesity and complex, ill-defined problems.

(5).  The obesity culture: patterns and paradoxes

(6). Universities and communities: public health and the power of partnerships
(7). The Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative.
(8). The Sayre High School Pennsylvania University assisted community school initiative
(9).  On societies, mirrors, and obesity.


Dr Johnston, professor of anthropology emeritus, is the editor of three recent books on obesity and human nutrition and a much-travelled scientist and field worker in Central America and elsewhere. Dr Harkavy is a

leader in university-based community health partnerships throughout the United States. The authors have collaborative links with colleagues in Europe, Africa, Australia and elsewhere.

Smith Gordon & Co Ltd

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