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Now, in the United States – arguably the mother of global consumer culture – the debate has turned toward the fight against the epidemic of childhood obesity.It is ironic that in a world where childhood malnutrition plagues many developing countries, childhood obesity has become one of the leading health scourges in advanced economies.Indeed, though perhaps not on a par with global warming and looming water shortages, obesity – and especially childhood obesity – nonetheless is on the short list of major public-health challenges facing advanced countries in the 21st century, and it is rapidly affecting many emerging-market economies as well. The United States leads the world in obesity, and is at the cutting edge of the debate. Almost everyone agrees that the first line of defense ought to be better consumer education. Commercial television programs aimed at children are replete with advertising for processed foods of dubious value to human health.The causes of obesity are complex, and the science of understanding human behavior is embryonic; but it is not hyperbole to call the problem an epidemic. The right place to start to address it is by creating a better balance between education and commercial disinformation.
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