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Title: The Rising Obesity Epidemic: A Comparative Analysis of Obesity in the United States and South Africa
Authors: Krishnan, Priya
Advisors: Coven, Martha
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2016
Abstract: ABSTRACT Background: Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980. Obesity is associated with increased healthcare costs, greater prevalence of disease, and even shorter life spans. The United States and South Africa are two countries with obesity rates much higher than the global mean, and rates have not decreased significantly in the past few years for either country. Objective: This thesis seeks to compare the trends and causes of obesity in the United States and South Africa and use that information to make appropriate interventions for both countries. This study varies from existing scholarship because it aims to set a precedent for further comparative studies between different countries with high obesity rates. Hypothesis: I hypothesize that the rising obesity rates for both countries are products of each country’s environment, demonstrated by the sudden increase in obesity rates in the early 1980s for the U.S. and the early 1990s for South Africa. I also hypothesize that both countries are experiencing similar causes of obesity, and it is all the more important to give priority to mitigating these mutual causes since they might be more likely to impact other countries that are also experiencing high obesity rates. Methodology: For this thesis, I reviewed the body of scholarship on the topic of obesity for both countries. To determine obesity trends for both countries, I engaged with reports that provided population datasets. I used the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to determine trends in the United States, and the South African Health and Demographic Survey, National Income Dynamics Study, and South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to determine trends in South Africa. To research obesity causes in both countries, I consulted various case studies, academic journals, and research reports. Findings: My findings confirmed my hypothesis that the rise in obesity rates for the two countries are products of the environment, and that both countries experience several overlapping causes for their respective rises in obesity rates. These causes include an increase in sedentary behavior, and an overall increase in energy intake caused by food marketing, fast food restaurants, and a higher food supply. I also discovered that women, and particularly black women, have higher obesity rates in both countries. Recommendations: Based on the findings, I recommend a set of policy interventions to improve nutrition labels, create positive advertisements, encourage exercise, improve fast food restaurants, promote healthy food through taxes and subsidies, create grocery stores in low-income areas, and develop a counter-advertising campaign to tackle the cultural norms associated with obesity.
Extent: 85 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2017

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