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Behavioural Economics - Battling Obesity

Geoff Riley

28th July 2017

The long struggle against smoking is the model for tackling obesity according to Simon Kuper in this article from the Financial Times.

The default bias is strong and Kuper argues that most life-long dietary habits are set by adolescence. But there are still plenty of behavioural nudges that might be applied to tackling the issue.

  • Appealing to loss aversion e.g. impact on family of heart attacks / premature death
  • Changing the choice architecture in restaurants / vending machines / shops / hospitals
  • Wider use of pre-commitment devices e.g. parents choosing healthy school meals in advance

Conventional policy interventions include:

  • Increased indirect taxes on high fat / high sugar / high salt foods
  • NHS provision of weight-loss drugs
  • Tougher regulations for food/drink manufacturers
  • Education / information programmes / better labelling
  • Changing the formulation of school meals

More on applying behavioural economics insights to health issues can be found here

Geoff Riley

Geoff Riley FRSA has been teaching Economics for over thirty years. He has over twenty years experience as Head of Economics at leading schools. He writes extensively and is a contributor and presenter on CPD conferences in the UK and overseas.

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