Understanding Obesity through Sociology Dr Abir Youssef

Understanding Obesity
through Sociology
Dr Abir Youssef
Understanding Obesity
through Sociology
World Health Organization (WHO)
definitions for obesity
Causes of obesity
Socio-economic Environmental
Cultural – behavioral Explanation
Ethnicity and Obesity
Tackling Obesity
Obesity is a major public
health problem across the
Obesity results from
excessive caloric intake,
decreased energy expenditure
and/or from a combination of
the two.
World Health Organization
(WHO) definitions for obesity
BMI = Weight kg/Height m²
Underweight: <18.5 BMI
Healthy weight: 18.5-24.9 BMI
Overweight (Grade I obesity):
25.0-29.9 BMI
Obese (Grade II obesity): 30.039.9 BMI
Morbidly obese (Grade III
obesity): 40 or above BMI
Causes of obesity
The etiology of obesity
includes both genetic and
environmental factors
The followings are the
main factors:
Environmental factors related
to lifestyle and cultural or
socio-economic conditions
Psychological factors
Metabolic factors
May also be induced by drugs
(high dose glucocorticoid)
Secondary to a variety of
neuroendocrine disorders
Environmental Explanation
Obesity is strongly influenced
by environmental factors,
such as , poverty, housing
condition, and work situation.
Housing conditions
There is clear recognition of
the association between poor
housing and poor physical
and mental health
Obesity is strongly linked to
Poorer diets among poorer
groups can be explained by
the lack of opportunities,
stress, and level of
Poverty and overcrowding
can inhibit parental
supervision of children and
negatively affect their health
in general and increase
Unhealthy fast food is both
available and affordable.
Work situation
Work allows for the financing
of household necessities and
leisure pursuits and provides
status and self-esteem for the
There is a decrease in energy
consumption at work, as most
of our jobs now require much
less physical effort, compared
with 1970.
Work situation
Travel to work by cars and/or
other modern public transport
Calorie intake and the
ambient temperature at home
and at the workplace have
Cultural – behavioral
The Cultural – behavioral
explanation of health
inequalities point out class
difference in
 beliefs about health
 health behaviour
 life-style
Lack of public information
Some people can not judge
which products are high in
fat and by how much.
Food manufacturers
display macronutrients in
grams, when the correct
way would be to express
their contribution in energy.
Lack of public information
Advertising gives children
confused messages about
nutrition, and can change their
food preferences and buying
Subsidies of agricultural
products play an important
part, as children as well as
adults, are influenced by cheap
Ethnicity and Obesity
Psychosocial factors associated
with the incidence of obesity in
ethnic minorities include
 inadequate social support
 cultural barriers to
 racism and discrimination
 stress and lack of knowledge
 language difficulties to
understand the health promotion
Tackling Obesity on
different levels
local government
national levels
Tackling Obesity
Society-wide Approach
The WHO’s 1997 interim report argues
that it is not enough to tackle obesity
at individual level and that a societywide public health approach needs to
be employed.
 Medical profession
 Government should work with the
food industry to promote a healthier
diet for everyone from childhood to
adult life.
 Management of obesity in Primary
Care by a motivated well-informed
multi-disciplinary team could achieve
and maintain weight loss by
promoting sustainable changes in
Tackling Obesity
The government should work to
reduce health inequality and
improve the environment factor.
Controlling safety and making the
streets safe for walking or cycling.
Promoting and improving access
to sport and leisure facilities.
Education programmes for all,
advertising to promote healthy
lifestyles and highlight the risks
associated with obesity.
Tackling Obesity
Individual parents of
overweight children should be
helped to take responsibility
and encourage healthy eating
and physical activity.
Obesity is not a disease, it is
a public health problem and it
is a risk factor for several
chronic diseases.
Understanding environmental
factors can contribute to a
better understanding of the
nature of obesity as well as
contribute to tackling it.