Radical change needed in #farm and #food policies to tackle world’s #obesity crisis – in conversation with Prof Philip James

In this conversation, one of the world’s leading experts on obesity, Professor Philip James, discusses the origins and nature of the obesity crisis that has developed. He sees its roots in policies originating in the second world war and agricultural policies promoted globally since that fuel it, linked also to marketing practices. “The whole of our food system changed, based on, putting it crudely, pre-war malnutrition and the threat of semi-starvation in the second world war. And we produced an obese population.” He calls for a radical transformation of farming and food systems globally in order to address obesity because ‘agricultural policy is based on the wrong ideas.’

After discussing his work on obesity I asked Prof James just how he got started on his long career. It’s a tale of a Quaker school, international view, work on child malnutrition as a paediatrician in Jamaica that ends up with him in being a leading nutritionist involved at the heart of the BSE (mad cow disease) response in the UK and EU. And finally he adds a few words of advice to anyone starting out today.

If you would like to read more about Philip’s work and see some of the reports or institutions mentioned in these interviews follow the links below:

Research on obesity : a report of the DHSS/MRC group, 1976

OECD Obesity Update 2017

McKinsey & Company, How the world could better fight obesity, November 2014

Foresight, Tackling obesities: future choices – project report (2nd edition), Government Office for Science, 2007

See here for World Health Organisation’s materials on obesity

Chris Murray, Global Burden of Disease Study, University of Washington 

International Obesity Task Force EU Platform Briefing Paper, EU Platform on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, Brussels, 2005

See here for a history of the International Obesity Task Force. The World Obesity / Policy & Prevention (formerly IOTF) was set up to manage and develop the policy and advocacy work of World Obesity. This is is a global network of experts working to alert the world to the growing health crisis caused by soaring levels of obesity.

James, P., Kemper, F., Pascal, G. (1999) The Future of Scientific Advice in the EU

Below are some of Philip’s more recent publications:

James WPT. Obesity: a global pubic health challenge. Clin. Chem. 2018;64:1-6

Alwan A, McKoll.K, Aljawaldeh A, James P. Proposed policy priorities for preventing obesity and diabetes in the Eastern Mediterranean Region. WHO.EMRO Technical Publications Series 46.2017

James WPT. From Childhood Malnutrition to Public Health Nutrition. Ann. Nut. Metab..2018;72:202-209

James WPT. The Epidemiology of obesity.  In “Obesity: Further progress?” Editors Finer N, Braccia S in an Endocrinology Series by Springer Publishers 2018

About Geoff Tansey

I curate the Food Systems Academy, a free, on-line, open education resource to transform our food systems. I was also a member of the Food Ethics Council from 2000-2021 and chaired the independent Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty, which reported in 2015.
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2 Responses to Radical change needed in #farm and #food policies to tackle world’s #obesity crisis – in conversation with Prof Philip James

  1. Hilary Hamer says:

    These is the conversation few people will want to hear and yet it is the clearest, most logical summary of the catastrophe our food systems are having on the health of the global population and what we have to do to change it. Utterly brilliant.

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