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
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