Some of the articles grew out of an interesting conference here at UC Davis last May. Mary Muth organized and edited the series. Helen Jensen and I contributed an article on food assistance programs, emphasizing that these programs do much more than just boost food intake. I started drafting a few words about several more articles, but, better, here are links to the whole set.
Theme Overview: Addressing the Obesity Challenge
Mary K. Muth
Increasing rates of obesity and the associated effects on health of the U.S. population are often in the news recently. The set of papers in this theme describe measures of the costs of obesity, consider some of the contributors to increases in obesity, and evaluate current and potential solutions.The Costs of Obesity and Implications for Policymakers
Eric A. Finkelstein, Kiersten L. Strombotne, and Barry M. Popkin
The increase in obesity prevalence has had profound economic consequences on state and federal government agencies and on employers. We present the most recent estimates of direct and indirect costs of obesity. We then discuss the implications of these costs for public and private payers.Food Environment, Food Store Access, Consumer Behavior, and Diet
Michele Ver Ploeg
Lack of access to affordable, healthy food in some neighborhoods is hypothesized to lead to poor diet, obesity, and other diet-related diseases. Estimates show that access to healthy food is a problem for a small percentage of the population. Many, but not all, low-income households shop where food prices are relatively low.Farm Policy and Obesity in the United States
Julian M. Alston, Bradley J. Rickard, and Abigail M. Okrent
This article shows that U.S. farm policies have had generally modest and mixed effects on prices and quantities of farm commodities, with negligible effects on the prices paid by consumers for food and thus negligible influence on dietary patterns and obesity.More Than Just Food: The Diverse Effects of Food Assistance Programs
Helen H. Jensen and Parke E. Wilde
U.S. food assistance programs enhance nutrition and reduce food insecurity through diverse activities. The programs provide food directly, offer nutrition education, place limits on foods obtained with program benefits, and alleviate "boom and bust" cycles associated with food insecurity. Thus, their potential effects on obesity come through various mechanisms.Can Nutrition Labeling Affect Obesity?
Joanne E. Arsenault
Nutrition labeling should help consumers make healthier food choices and encourage food manufacturers to produce healthier products. Some evidence exists for such effects, but it is less clear and difficult to assess if nutrition labeling impacts obesity.Can Taxes on Calorically Sweetened Beverages Reduce Obesity?
Jessica E. Todd and Chen Zhen
This article reviews the emerging body of economic research that attempts to determine how large of a tax on calorically sweetened beverages—and in what form—would be effective in causing a noticeable decline in the prevalence of overweight and obesity in the United States.Behavioral Economics: A New Heavyweight in Washington?
Sean B. Cash and Christiane Schroeter
Behavioral economic research has shown that individuals rely heavily on subtle external cues or nudges that influence what and how much we eat. Promising results from experimental settings in lunchrooms, grocery stores, and labs are now shaping food and obesity policies, but not without controversy.