The world has made huge advances in containing infectious diseases, but that progress is being partiallyoffset by a sharp rise in the incidence of heart and lung disease, diabetes, lifestyle-related cancers, and othernon-communicable diseases. One of the major drivers of the increase in these diseases is the rising prevalence
Obesity is a complex, systemic, multi-causal problem, rooted in the sedentary nature of modern post-industrial life, more widely available and more affordable food, a change in the nature and mix of diets, psychological stimuli such as stress and epigenetic triggers, and
potentially even physiological disruption to the gut microbiome. There is considerable ongoing academic research into the scale and causes of the rapidly rising obesity epidemic. Researchers are digging deep into specific questions and analyzing potential solutions. However, there is a lack of integrated analysis of the holistic program that would be needed to reverse rising obesity, and what it would take to start to deliver such a program.
This discussion paper seeks to start to close this gap. We set out to learn as much as possible from existing research and build on it with our own understanding of micro- and behavioral economics, and McKinsey’s
experience and research across sectors, including consumer-facing, public, and health-care sectors. Our aim then has been to step back and attempt to develop
a perspective on what might be the building blocks of a societal response that could overcome rising obesity. As with all MGI research, this has not been funded by any company, government, or external organization but by the
partners of McKinsey.
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