Fletcher Presents on History of Obesity

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Isabel Fletcher presented on the history of obesity to the Edinburgh International Conference of Medicine. Her presentation focused on explaining why, despite being recognised since antiquity, obesity is best considered as a modern phenomenon. Fletcher described the ways in which contemporary knowledge about the extent, and negative effect on health, of excess bodyweight (obesity and overweight) derive from American and British research into the causes of coronary heart disease, and continued by outlining the development the body mass index (BMI) to both define and measure rates of obesity, and how this information was used to map its increasing prevalence.

In her presentation, Fletcher argued that the framing of obesity as a global epidemic by the World Health Organization in 2000 involved the development of a new, environmental, model of the condition that now co-exists alongside older individual models. She concluded with some thoughts on what the history of medicine can contribute to debates about appropriate responses to rising rates of obesity and overweight.