Hastings Center Report 44 (6):26-35 (2014)

Widespread obesity poses a serious challenge to health outcomes in the developed world and is a growing problem in the developing world. There has been a raft of proposals to combat the challenge of obesity, including restrictions on the nature of food advertising, the content of prepared meals, and the size of sodas; taxes on saturated fat and on calories; and mandated “healthy-options” on restaurant menus. Many of these interventions seem to have a greater impact on rates of obesity than does simply providing information about health risks and healthier lifestyles. The more interventionist policy options have, however, been implemented only slowly, in large part because of criticisms that they are unjustified infringements on the liberty of consumers. Food industry groups, free-market think tanks, and the popular press regard measures that incentivize or penalize particular food and lifestyle choices as unjustifiable state regulation of purely self-regarding behavior. To counteract the liberty-oriented position, those who favor a more interventionist role for the state have recently argued for labeling obesity as a public health emergency. By labeling obesity as a public health emergency, policy-makers could override concerns about individual liberty in order to pursue more interventionist policies designed to guide consumer choices toward healthier lifestyles. In this paper, we argue that, contrary to initial appearances, obesity possesses some of the morally relevant features of public health emergencies, though we do not argue that it actually constitutes one.
Keywords obesity  public health emergencies  emergency
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1002/hast.350
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 64,291
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Is Obesity a Public Health Problem?Jonny Anomaly - 2012 - Public Health Ethics 5 (3):216-221.
Obesity: Chasing an Elusive Epidemic.Daniel Callahan - 2013 - Hastings Center Report 43 (1):34-40.

View all 13 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Is Obesity a Public Health Problem?Jonny Anomaly - 2012 - Public Health Ethics 5 (3):216-221.
Obesity and Health System Reform: Private Vs. Public Responsibility.Y. Tony Yang & Len M. Nichols - 2011 - Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 39 (3):380-386.
A Liberal Approach to the Obesity Epidemic.Alex Rajczi - 2008 - Public Affairs Quarterly 22 (3):269-288.
Fat Stigma and Public Health: A Theoretical Framework and Ethical Analysis.Desiree Abu-Odeh - 2014 - Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 24 (3):247-265.
Ethics and Public Policy.Dita Wickins-Drazilova & Garrath Williams - 2010 - In Luis Moreno, Iris Pigeot & Wolfgang Ahrens (eds.), Epidemiology of Obesity in Children and Adolescents. Springer Science+Business Media. pp. 7--20.


Added to PP index

Total views
35 ( #312,045 of 2,456,074 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #449,366 of 2,456,074 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes