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Bloomberg American Health Initiative

Obesity and the Food System

The Challenge

The obesity epidemic in the United States has roots in a broken food system.

Poor nutrition and obesity are not the result of a single cause-effect relationship. Instead, they are born of a complex system of policy, economic, cultural, environmental, social, behavioral, and biological factors and relationships. Changing only discrete parts of the system may have little effect or, even worse, unintended consequences.

We can no longer separate production from consumption. Communities, cities and countries are increasingly interconnected via food systems, businesses, transportation, media and the internet. Changing what we eat involves not just personal choice but also changing methods of food production and delivery systems so that the right choice becomes the default choice.

Apple Icon In the U.S., obesity now affects 1 in 6 children and adolescents, and more than one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of adults are obese.

A Healthier Food System

New efforts on obesity will build on a broad range of activities at the Bloomberg School. We teach kids how to make healthy food choices in Baltimore, examine the impact of bike policies and greenways in Missouri and advocate for more financial incentives to farmers who produce a healthy food supply in San Mateo.

Our researchers have developed models to simulate the impact of policy changes on obesity rates. We are building collaborations to provide access to healthy nutrition in "food deserts" that exist in many U.S. cities and advocating for evidence-based action and policy change.