Individual responsibility for reducing obesity: the unintended consequences of well intended messages

Jessica L Browne, Paul Zimmet and Jane Speight
Med J Aust 2011; 195 (7): . || doi: 10.5694/mja11.10508
Published online: 3 October 2011

To the Editor: In a recent article that appeared in newspapers such as Melbourne’s The Age and Sydney Morning Herald on 19 Jan 2011,1 one of us (P Z) argued that it is both ineffective and inaccurate to blame those who are overweight and obese for their health problems. It was highlighted that our social, economic, cultural and physical environments are all “obesogenic”,2 acting as barriers to achieving a healthy lifestyle. The article by Proietto in the August 2011 issue of the Journal similarly argued that the obesogenic environment, and its interaction with a person’s genetic make-up, is to blame for the increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity.3

  • 1 Australian Centre for Behavioural Research in Diabetes, Melbourne, VIC.
  • 2 Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, VIC.


Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

  • 1. Zimmet P. We should stop putting blame on obese people. The Age (Melbourne) 2011; 19 Jan.
  • 2. Egger G, Swinburn B. An “ecological” approach to the obesity pandemic. BMJ 1997; 315: 477.
  • 3. Proietto J. Why is treating obesity so difficult? Justification for the role of bariatric surgery. Med J Aust 2011; 195: 144-146. <MJA full text>
  • 4. Sacks G, Swinburn B, Lawrence M. A systematic policy approach to changing the food system and physical activity environments to prevent obesity. Aust N Z Health Policy 2008; 5: 13.
  • 5. MacLean L, Edwards N, Garrard M, et al. Obesity, stigma and public health planning. Health Promot Int 2009; 24: 88-93.
  • 6. Tuomilehto J, Lindström J, Eriksson JG, et al. Prevention of type 2 diabetes mellitus by changes in lifestyle among subjects with impaired glucose tolerance. N Engl J Med 2001; 344: 1343-1350.


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