Miller Center

The State and the Private Sphere: Obesity Politics in Historical Context

Speaker: Rogan Kersh
Date: April 16, 2004
Time: 12:00 PM

Rogan Kersh is Associate Professor of Public Policy and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at NYU.

The following summary excerpt from the paper provides an overview of the talk:

"Based on a variety of evidence, our basic argument is that tobacco and obesity, along with other public-health issues, represent an emerging form of health policy making, one we term the politics of private behavior. Rising health costs spread concern about risky behavior: your lifestyle choices raise my premiums and my taxes. In this brand of politics, the most important response comes not from elected branches of government, but from the judiciary. This paper describes the rise of obesity to prominence as a public-policy concern, highlighting medical and economic features and considering various claims about the causes of this recent 'epidemic.' We then assess attempts by different national institutions to respond, concluding that courts are likely to (continue to) take a leading role. The analogy to late-1990s tobacco wars leads us to describe a potentially-emerging trend in health policymaking."


Colloquium Paper: