Promoting obesity prevention together with environmental sustainability
Skouteris, H, Cox, R, Huang, T, Rutherford, L, Edwards, S & Cutter-Mackenzie, AN 2014, 'Promoting obesity prevention together with environmental sustainability', Health Promotion International, vol. 29, no. 3, pp. 454-462.
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There is mounting evidence that current food production, transport, land use and urban design negatively impact both climate change and obesity outcomes. Recommendations to prevent climate change provide an opportunity to improve environmental outcomes and alter our food and physical activity environments in favour of a ‘healthier’ energy balance. Hence, setting goals to achieve a more sustainable society offers a unique opportunity to reduce levels of obesity. In the case of children, this approach is supported with evidence that even from a young age they show emerging understandings of complex environmental issues and are capable of both internalizing positive environmental values and influencing their own environmental outcomes. Given young children’s high levels of environmental awareness, it is easy to see how environmental sustainability messages may help educate and motivate children to make ‘healthier’ choices. The purpose of this paper is to highlight a new approach to tackling childhood obesity by tapping into existing social movements, such as environmental sustainability, in order to increase children’s motivation for healthy eating and physical activity behaviours and thus foster more wholesome communities. We contend that a social marketing framework may be a particularly useful tool to foster behaviour change beneficial to both personal and environmental health by increasing perceived benefits and reducing perceived costs of behaviour change. Consequently, we propose a new framework which highlights suggested pathways for helping children initiate and sustain ‘healthier’ behaviours in order to inform future research and potentially childhood obesity intervention strategies.