Ethical Standards to Guide the Development of Obesity Policies and Programs; Comment on “Ethical Agreement and Disagreement about Obesity Prevention Policy in the United States”

Document Type: Commentary

Author

School of Public Health & Health Sciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA

Abstract

The recent report by Barnhill and King about obesity prevention policy raises important issues for discussion and analysis. In response, this article raises four points for further consideration. First, a distinction between equality and justice needs to be made and consistently maintained. Second, different theories of justice highlight one additional important source of disagreement about the ethical propriety of the proposed obesity prevention policies. Third, another point of contention arises with respect to different understandings of the principle of respect for autonomy due to its often-mistaken equation with simple, unfettered freedom. Finally, based on a more robust definition of autonomy, the key issues in obesity prevention policies can be suitably re-framed in terms of whether they advance just social conditions that enable people to realize human capabilities to the fullest extent possible.

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