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Advances in Preventive Medicine
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 149158, 6 pages
Review Article

Obesity, Chronic Disease, and Economic Growth: A Case for “Big Picture” Prevention

1Health and Human Sciences, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW 2480, Australia
2Centre for Health Promotion and Research, P. O. Box 214, Balgowlah, Sydney, NSW 2094, Australia

Received 29 May 2010; Revised 29 August 2010; Accepted 21 September 2010

Academic Editor: Jim Tartaglia

Copyright © 2011 Garry Egger. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The discovery of a form of chronic, low-grade systemic inflammation (“metaflammation”) linked with obesity, but also associated with several lifestyle-related behaviours not necessarily causing obesity, suggests a re-consideration of obesity as a direct cause of chronic disease and a search for the main drivers—or cause of causes. Factors contributing to this are considered here within an environmental context, leading to the conclusion that humans have an immune reaction to aspects of the modern techno-industrial environment, to which they have not fully adapted. It is suggested that economic growth—beyond a point—leads to increases in chronic diseases and climate change and that obesity is a signal of these problems. This is supported by data from Sweden over 200 years, as well as “natural” experiments in disrupted economies like Cuba and Nauru, which have shown a positive health effect with economic downturns. The effect is reflected both in human health and environmental problems such as climate change, thus pointing to the need for greater cross-disciplinary communication and a concept shift in thinking on prevention if economic growth is to continue to benefit human health and well-being.