Toronto Metropolitan University
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Is the ‘obesity crisis’ really the health crisis of the food system?: The ecological determinants of health for food system change

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-01-09, 15:26 authored by Sarah EltonSarah Elton

Multilateral organizations and research institutions are increasingly calling for transformation of the industrial food system due to its negative health impacts, its contribution to climate change and the fact that the system fails to provide adequate food to more than 800 million people. A common rationale given for food system change is the so-called obesity crisis. This commentary draws from critical weight studies and ecological public health discourses to argue that it is unnecessary to connect the crises of the food system with a rise in overweight and obesity. This approach contributes to fat stigma and further marginalizes a group of people who already suffer from stigmatization. A more inclusive rationale for food system change can be found in a concept articulated by the Canadian Public Health Association termed the ‘ecological determinants of health.’ These are features of the biosphere such as water, air, food and soil systems that support life on earth and human health. The current industrial food system threatens the ecological determinants of health by contributing substantially to climate change and environmental degradation. A shift in discourse in food policy and practice to focus on the ecological health impacts of the food system is more inclusive and promotes the well-being of all. 




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