Is obesity a ‘culture problem’ rather than a ‘health problem’?

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Obesity has been a major health concern in Australia for over 20 years. Yet so far, no interventions have been successful in reducing population-level obesity anywhere in the world. Are we looking for answers in the right place? My work in Nauru, the UK and Australia suggests that culture has a key role to play. I outline three links between culture and obesity that I have observed in my work. If obesity is recast as a culture problem, what are the implications for policy making and governance?

About Dr Amy McLennan:
Amy is a Senior Analyst in the Project Office of the Australian Government Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and a Research Associate at the School of Anthropology at the University of Oxford. Amy completed her MPhil and DPhil in Anthropology at the University of Oxford, where she investigated lifestyle change, sociocultural change and obesity emergence in one of the most obese nations in the world. She is an enthusiastic cross-disciplinary collaborator, having journeyed from the biomedical to social sciences in her university studies, and has co-published on topics ranging from anatomy to online food activism.

Amy is fluent in French and is getting there with German. She is passionate about food, and carries out regular experiments in the kitchen. She is also a rower, and represented the University of Oxford in the reserve boat ‘Osiris’ in the 2012 Boat Race.

Dr Amy McLennan, 2009 John Monash Scholar
Research Associate, School of Anthropology & Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford
Senior Analyst (Project Office0, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Australian Government

About The Change Agenda:
The inaugural John Monash Scholars’ Symposium, The Change Agenda: Leadership and Direction for Australia’s Future, was held in Oxford on 1 April 2016. The UK and Europe based John Monash Scholars used short bite size presentations to inform a conversation on global trends, and provoke discussion about appropriate responses to them. Each area of discussion, Drivers of Change, Our Human Response, Harnessing Technology, and Leading the Region,  included 5-6 presentations, was chaired by an eminent Australian and took questions from the floor.