Obesity co-responsibility symposium - Geneva - July

Preventing obesity:  Personal responsibility?  Social responsibility?  Moving beyond polarization in policy, discourse and practice 

A symposium at the Brocher Foundation, Geneva, Switzerland, 1-2 July 2013
Rising levels of obesity are of increasing concern to policy makers and public health workers around the world.  Individual behavior plays an important role in weight control.  But so do other factors such as the environment that people live in, including their access to nutritious and affordable food, or opportunities to be physically active.  Should we set aside personal responsibility and focus exclusively on addressing environmental factors and social responsibility, as argued by some?  Or is it time to ‘get real’ and impose tougher sanctions on the overweight and obese in order to change their behavior?  Can penalties such as higher insurance premiums be justified, which are applied in some countries?  

A one-and-a-half day symposium seeks to explore the thesis that the dichotomy of personal versus social responsibility is a false one, and that instead, a concept such as co-responsibility for health should be adopted and drive policy and practice.  The symposium focuses on obesity but aims to contribute to broader philosophical and policy discussions on health and responsibility.

The program starts with the perspectives of international organizations.  Key staff from WHO, OECD and the World Bank comment on the scope of the problem of rising levels of obesity worldwide in relation to their respective organizations, and ways in which the right balance between personal and social responsibility might be struck in policy and practice.  Leading academic experts then review the scope and limitations of different types of interventions that touch on both personal and social responsibility. These range from information and education measures; opportunities that the doctor-patient interaction offers; financial incentives and other nudges; to regulations that restrict or penalize certain choices.  Issues around the appropriate role of corporate social responsibility are also explored, as are questions around whether obesity prevention measures may lead to stigma and discrimination.  

The symposium outcomes include the creation of a high-level network, and an exploration of a set of guiding principles for policy makers, and academic and policy orientated publications.  

The meeting will be highly interactive and will be limited to 50 attendees (including 12 speakers). Academics, professionals and policy makers working in relevant areas, including public health, medicine, economics, philosophy, social sciences and related fields, are warmly invited to attend.

The symposium is being convened by Dr. Harald Schmidt (University of Pennsylvania), Dr. Sridhar Venkatapuram (King’s College London) and Prof. Sir Michael Marmot (University College London) in cooperation with the World Health Organization’s Ethics and Health team. 

Venue and times: Brocher Foundation (http://www.brocher.ch/en/), Geneva, Switzerland, 9am-5pm, 1 July; 9am-1pm, 2 July.  More details about speakers and the agenda are available here: http://medicalethics.med.upenn.edu/people/faculty/harald-schmidt Brocher requires a registration fee of CHF150, but covers all catering, including a dinner of all participants on July 1. 


If you would like to participate, please email Dr. Harald Schmidt at schmidth@mail.med.upenn.edu  by 12 June with a brief outline (1-2 paragraphs) about your interest in, and potential contributions to, the symposium.  Feel free, but not obliged, to include a CV. Please indicate if you need a rapid reply for visa or travel planning reasons.  Confirmations will be sent out on a rolling basis, by 14 June at the latest. There will be a waitlist option. 
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