Backward- and forward-looking responsibility for obesity: policies from WHO, the EU and England.

European journal of public health

PubMedID: 25931499

Vallgårda S, Nielsen ME, Hartlev M, Sandøe P. Backward- and forward-looking responsibility for obesity: policies from WHO, the EU and England. Eur J Public Health. 2015;.
BACKGROUND
In assigning responsibility for obesity prevention a distinction may be drawn between who is responsible for the rise in obesity prevalence ('backward-looking responsibility'), and who is responsible for reducing it ('forward-looking responsibility').

METHODS
We study how the two aspects of responsibility figure in the obesity policies of WHO (European Region), the EU and the Department of Health (England).

RESULTS
Responsibility for the emergence and reduction of obesity is assigned to both individuals and other actors to different degrees in the policies, combining an individual and a systemic view. The policies assign backward-looking responsibility to individuals, the social environment, the authorities and businesses. When it comes to forward-looking responsibility, individuals are expected to play a central role in reducing and preventing obesity, but other actors are also urged to act. WHO assigns to individuals the lowest degree of backward- and forward-looking responsibility, and the Department of Health (England) assigns them the highest degree of responsibility.

DISCUSSION
Differences in the assignment of backward- and above all forward-looking responsibility could be explained to some extent by the different roles of the three authorities making the plans. WHO is a UN agency with health as its goal, the EU is a liberal economic union with optimization of the internal European market as an important task, and England, as an independent sovereign country, has its own economic responsibilities.