The context shapes our behaviors

March 18, 2011

Last week I appeared on a cable TV show, Destination Casa Blanca, alongside several colleagues who work in public health and health policy. The discussion centered around childhood obesity (and obesity in general), and included interesting perspectives from Lisa Pino of the USDA Food Stamp Program (now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), Jessica Donze Black of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, Gail Mattes of the American Heart Association, and Maria Gomez of Mary’s Center for Maternal and Child Care.

We had a spirited discussion of the many facets and factors of the obesity epidemic. A theme I returned to several times is that the context in which we live strongly shapes – even determines, in some cases – our behaviors and ultimately our health outcomes. This is (unfortunately) not something we often consider when it comes to managing our weight and health. If our surroundings make the unhealthy behaviors much easier than the healthy ones, it almost doesn’t matter how hard we work, because it can be difficult to overcome such an environment – which is one of the core reasons that the vast majority of us have excess weight.

Ultimately, we’ll need to continue addressing the environment, and the context in which we make our health decisions, in order to make inroads in the epidemics of obesity and chronic disease.

The Context Shapes Our Behaviors

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