Changing Public Health Responses to Obesity

Policy responses to obesity are the focus of a new paper co-written by HSMC Professor Russell Mannion and Professor Neil Small (University of Bradford).

The analysis centres on recent shifts in the role of the state in healthcare (within a broader change in the nature of government) – with a greater emphasis on promoting personal responsibility and self-discipline in the areas health professionals define as high risk.

Folk devils

The paper draws attention to the implications of this move: how an individual’s “moral failure” might be amplified to create “folk devils” (Stanley Cohen) whilst at the same time biological, social and structural contexts promoting obesity are being ignored. It concludes that:

“[f]uelling moral panics and creating folk devils are blunt public health tools with the potential for consequences that bludgeon the vulnerable.”

Mannion, R. and Small, N. (2019) On folk devils, moral panics and new wave public health. International Journal of Health Policy and Management [online]. Available at: http://www.ijhpm.com/article_3669.html [Accessed 30 September 2019]