What’s the picture?

Having synthesized and interpreted the available data, practiced iteration and checked for biases, we may find ourselves with more questions than answers. Indeed, this is part of the purpose and process of developing implications because it enables us to say clearly what we know and don’t know about issues, populations and evidence. In the case of overweight and obesity, this result may be more pronounced because the issue has attracted a great deal of attention from policy makers, health care professionals, researchers and the public. It is also a subject that has generated considerable controversy. Title: Contributing Factors in Overweight and Obesity

From the information we have collected, which is admittedly only a small portion of the available evidence, we can see that rates of overweight and obesity are rising and that some populations are at greater risk than others. We can also see the link between overweight, obesity and many serious chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

But it is also clear that there is much left to learn about how to define and measure overweight and obesity. Should we continue to rely on measures such as body mass index, which focus on height and weight, or do we need to think differently about the relationship between weight, fitness and health? We can also see that much of the information we’ve collected does not address the core concepts of sex, gender, diversity and equity. For example, we are lacking evidence for many sub-populations and when we do include sub-populations, such as Aboriginal people, we must be especially conscious of the potential for bias. The information we’ve collected also puts forward only one explanation of the causes of obesity – diet and exercise – but many others are emerging from new research. Iteration would show us that a variety of factors have been identified as contributing to unhealthy weights, including sleep deprivation, stress, bacterial infections and imbalances, food insecurity and income, sex and gender differences, and where people live and work, and as well as the more traditional explanation related to diet and exercise.

Even using just the information we’ve collected, however, we can see that the issue of overweight, obesity and health is exceedingly complex. The implications of our analysis is that our response to the issue and to the populations affected by overweight and obesity, must be equally complex, whether we are undertaking research, developing policies and programs or delivering services.

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