The Obesity Culture

Obesity is such a grave problem in the United States that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says American society has become ‘obesogenic,’ characterized by environments that promote increased food intake, unhealthy foods and physical inactivity.

In their new book, “The Obesity Culture: Strategies for Change, Public Health and University-Community Partnerships,” Francis Johnston, the emeritus professor of anthropology at Penn, and Ira Harkavy, director of Penn’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships, say that the massive increase of obesity in America over the last 100 years, and the attempts to control it, is the “greatest public health failure of the past century.” The co-authors discuss the book Oct. 6 at the Penn Bookstore.

Johnston and Harkavy say top down health and diet-centered prescriptions have proven unsuccessful in combating the obesity epidemic. Obesity, they say, is a complex public health problem whose solution requires new approaches that stem from community partnerships. 

“Understanding the obesity culture and how to change it is ultimately a shared enterprise,” the authors say, “engaging faculty and students with the community in democratic partnerships that advance knowledge and lead to a new understanding and eventually progress against obesity.”

The event takes place from 6 to 7 p.m. For more information, 215-898-7595 or

Originally published on September 17, 2009