Ethical Agreement and Disagreement about Obesity Prevention Policy in the United States

Document Type: Perspective


1 Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA

2 Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, Canada


An active area of public health policy in the United States is policy meant to promote healthy eating, reduce overconsumption of food, and prevent overweight/obesity. Public discussion of such obesity prevention policies includes intense ethical disagreement. We suggest that some ethical disagreements about obesity prevention policies can be seen as rooted in a common concern with equality or with autonomy, but there are disagreements about which dimensions of equality or autonomy have priority, and about whether it is justifiable for policies to diminish equality or autonomy along one dimension in order to increase it along another dimension. We illustrate this point by discussing ethical disagreements about two obesity prevention policies.


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