If Left Unchecked
As US President Donald Trump’s administration throws sharp elbows in trade negotiations and systematically rescinds regulations introduced by President Barack Obama, one casualty is likely to be efforts to fight the global obesity epidemic. Left unchecked, rapidly rising obesity rates could slow or even reverse the dramatic gains in health and life expectancy that much of the world has enjoyed over the past few decades.
Through the WI Lens
The Harvard economist was one of the first to propose a tax on processed food, whose proceeds could be used to subsidize healthier alternatives. His article serves as a useful reminder that things will get worse before they improve. The reasons are twofold: (1) Obesity rates are increasing around the world, led by some of the richest countries: the US, the UK and Canada. In emerging markets, the obesity problem is also getting worse because American companies and lobbyists are imposing their food culture by all possible means; (2) President Trump – a fast food fan – will rescind all kinds of regulations introduced by President Obama, affecting efforts to fight the global obesity epidemic.
What’s going to happen next is unclear… At the high-end of the income curve, the obesity epidemic will strengthen the wellness resolve of the tiny but fast-expanding minority who cares about the quality of its food. Organic and properly sourced food will continue to grow faster than the industry average. Otherwise, the perennial fight between the legislators and business lobbies will intensify. Obesity taxes (and thin subsidies) will be tried around the world. The agri-business and beverage industries will fight back.
“On such fragile foundations are built the first steps towards a more ethical kind of business, and who knows what virtuous circles might result?”
“Scientific evidence recently emerged that, contrary to earlier beliefs, Covid-19 can be spread by tiny droplets that we breathe out when we respire, called aerosols.”
“Economic wellbeing is part of the story, but it is also about finding less stressful lifestyles, in which healthy diet figures as a meaningful measure of success.”
“The industry has every asset needed to be a guiding light in the shift toward personal health priority. Will that become a prevention legacy, a ‘phoenix rising’ from the Covid-19 ashes?”
“Looking at the bigger picture, putting the measures in this order represents a lost opportunity that the pandemic could have offered for a cultural pivot pivot towards getting people more focused on their health, a powerful statement of intent.”
“Employment is necessary to fulfil our most basic human needs such as food and shelter. Any significant increase in long-term unemployment will spell a retrograde step for human wellbeing like no other.”
“All roads lead to a wellbeing anchor, whether that be economic/financial, physical, mental or emotional: all contribute to a progressive and inclusive cosmopolitan world. The answer should not be a choice of one or the other but of a joined up and compassionate solution for society, business and individuals.”
“The paradox is that we continue to do this in spite of recognising that striving to become ever-more productive is an intrinsically unhealthy behaviour, leading to stress and too often, a sense of failure.”
“The same broad-sweeping structural racism that enables police brutality against black Americans is also responsible for higher mortality among black Americans with Covid-19,” Maimuna Majumder, a Harvard epidemiologist working on the Covid-19 response, tells Vox.
The take-out from this? Wellbeing cannot exist at a more elevated level without our basic needs being met.