English obesity policies: To govern and not to govern

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Problem definitions constitute a crucial part of the policy process. In 2008 the Labour Government presented a plan to reduce the obesity prevalence in England. Only three years later the Conservative-Liberal Government introduced a plan on the same topic, which it presented as new and innovative. The aim of this study is to analyse the respective governments' problematisations of obesity and to identify similarities and differences. Despite the different hues of the two governments, the programmes are surprisingly similar. They seek to simultaneously govern and not to govern. They adhere to liberal ideals of individual choice and they also suggest initiatives that will lead people to choose certain behaviours. Both governments encourage the food and drink industry to support their policies voluntarily, rather than obliging them to do so, although Labour is somewhat more inclined to use statutory measures. The Conservative-Liberal plan does not represent many new ideas. The plans are characterised by the paradox that they convey both ideas and ideals about freedom of choice as well as about state interventions to influence people's choices, which could be seen as incompatible, but as the study shows in practice they are not.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHealth Policy
Volume119
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)743-748
Number of pages6
ISSN0168-8510
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015

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