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Re-examining obesity prevention strategy: Is social marketing still a relevant option?

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Globally, obesity is among the five leading risk factors for death. While the increase in obesity is a worldwide phenomenon, the rate of increase in England is of particular concern for local health authorities and policy makers. At the current rate, the prevalence is estimated to increase from 26% in 2010 to over 50% by 2050. This underscores the need for an urgent review of current strategy to inform policy makers and programme managers.

Social marketing is a recognised intervention method for systematically influencing behaviour and has been used effectively in various health programmes worldwide, including the United Kingdom, for obesity control. This paper examines the underlying assumptions and implications of a social marketing framework and critically assesses the impact of various interventions to reduce obesity, including the social marketing campaigns by the Department of Health (DH), UK.

The paper concludes that the social marketing framework, designed with end users in mind, has robust explanatory powers in relation to the adoption of a healthy lifestyle. However, interventions using a social marketing framework have produced limited results. The less-than-optimum performance may be attributed to various factors, including poor understanding and/or application of behavioural theories, lack of customer insight, and absence of meaningful exchange opportunities. Further research is needed in order to understand behaviour, specific to diet and physical activity, and the significance of legislation on marketing of food products.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2016

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