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04-18-2017 | Obesity | Review | Article

The development of scientific evidence for health policies for obesity: why and how?

M B Richardson, M S Williams, K R Fontaine, D B Allison


Potential obesity-related policy approaches have recently been receiving more attention. Although some have been implemented and others only proposed, few have been formally evaluated. We discuss the relevance, and in some cases irrelevance, of some of the types of evidence that are often brought to bear in considering obesity-related policy decisions. We discuss major methods used to generate such evidence, emphasizing study design and the varying quality of the evidence obtained. Third, we consider what the standards of evidence should be in various contexts, who ought to set those standards, as well as the inherent subjectivity involved in making policy decisions. Finally, we suggest greater transparency from both academics and policymakers in the acknowledgment of subjectivities so they can distinguish and communicate the roles of empirical evidence and subjective values in the formulation of policy.

Int J Obes 2017; 41: 840–848. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2017.71


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