Yesterday, Childhood Obesity News unpacked some of the contents of the McKinsey Global Institute’s “Overcoming obesity: An initial economic analysis.” The Institute, which is intimately connected with the global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, modestly characterizes its own report as:
…the equivalent of the maps used by 16th-century navigators. Some islands were missing and some continents misshapen in these maps, but they were still helpful to the sailors of that era.
There are were four main findings, which we capsulize here in condensed form. First, no single anti-obesity intervention can do the job, and the Institute came up with 44 (from a field of almost twice that many) that can be implemented and are expected to do some good. Cost effectiveness is important here, of course. Communities and government bodies will have to find the money to do these things, but the new procedures will pay off in the long run.
Second, two things are seen as critical: education and personal responsibility. What do we mean by education? If it’s just calorie charts and information about vitamins, Childhood Obesity News would not squander much hope on the results. As the participants in Dr. Pretlow’s Weigh2Rock website have repeatedly asserted, they are pretty well filled up with nutrition facts and the like. What they need is help controlling food cravings while they work on tracing the origins of those cravings and replacing them with more positive and useful emotions.
More McKinsey Findings
Point 2B is a bit more ominous. Of course, personal responsibility is to be lauded wherever it grows and wherever it can be developed, in every circumstance of life. But in corporate-speak, as we have seen, “personal responsibility” is code for “We will manufacture and market any goshdarn thing we please, and if you don’t like it, shop somewhere else. It’s all on you.” We hope that McKinsey doesn’t mean it that way.
Success will depend on cooperation and effort from every sector of society, and that includes “governments, retailers, consumer-goods companies, restaurants, employers, media organizations, educators, healthcare providers, or individuals.” Also, consider this fiduciary wisdom:
Moreover, some kind of coordination will probably be required to capture potentially high-impact industry interventions, since any first mover faces market-share risks.
In other words, somebody will have to take one for the team. Somebody has to walk point on this jungle trail, and possibly trigger a trip wire. Perhaps the corporations will figure out a way to band together and pool the mission’s liabilities. The final point? None of this will be easy, but the world needs to do it anyway.
In the same month when McKinsey’s report launched, the journal JAMA Pediatrics published the results of an analysis of data derived from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, in which more than 26,000 children were followed for 14 years. The article makes the scope of the problem clear:
Most alarming, the study finds an increase in the number of children with severe forms of obesity, whose body mass index measured 120- to 140-percent higher than children of average healthy weight.
Not long afterward, The Lancet initiated a six-part series about globesity or, as academic and professional journals call it, global obesity. In this publication’s view, progress is unacceptably slow. For instance, only one country in four seems to have put healthful eating policies in place. Here is one problem, and it doesn’t take a venerable institution like The Lancet to make it obvious:
Taste preferences and brand loyalty are established during infancy, so the industry pushes highly processed foods and sweetened drinks on children from a young age.
To emphasize the significance, the piece notes that the global market for processed baby formulas and foods has almost reached $20 billion per year. But Harvard’s Dr. Christina Roberto is quoted as saying:
It’s time to realize that this vicious cycle of supply and demand for unhealthy foods can be broken with ‘smart food policies’ by governments alongside joint efforts from industry and civil society to create healthier food systems.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “How the World Could Better Fight Obesity,” McKinsey.com, November 2014
Source: “Severe childhood obesity on the rise in US, study shows,”
Source: “Global obesity response is ‘unacceptably slow,’ according to experts,”
Image by Norman B. Leventhal Map Center