Intended for healthcare professionals

Head To Head

Is nudge an effective public health strategy to tackle obesity? No

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 14 April 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d2177
  1. Geof Rayner, honorary research fellow,
  2. Tim Lang, professor of food policy
  1. 1Centre for Food Policy, City University, London EC1V 0HB, UK
  1. Correspondence to: G Rayner mail{at}

Adam Oliver (doi:10.1136/bmj.d2168) maintains that nudges may help people to make healthier choices, but Geof Rayner and Tim Lang worry that government proposals are little more than publicly endorsed marketing

Over the past decade a common picture on the aetiology of obesity has become largely agreed. After years of competing analyses, most people now accept that obesity is the result of a complex multifactoral interplay.1 2 It is not either food intake or physical activity but both. It is not just food oversupply or pricing or domestic culture or food marketing or poor consumer choice or genetic potential. In fact, it is all of these and more. At last, scientific advisers have accepted that they have an analysis to share with politicians and can begin the tortuous process of crafting frameworks for action.3

So why is the British government quietly breaking with this consensus and putting so much weight behind nudge thinking? Nudge is being presented as a new change mechanism from which public health gain will follow and …

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