Wicked problem examples: Rising obesity levels

Even as an estimated 800 million people worldwide go to bed hungry, another two billion are overweight or obese. Food and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt are cheaper and more readily available – in both rich and poor countries. Lack of access to healthy, nutritious food often hits poor communities the hardest. The implications for global healthcare are considerable: obesity is linked to a rise in non-communicable diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and several forms of cancer. Healthcare systems worldwide are already struggling under the weight of these epidemics.

Why is this a Wicked Problem?

  • Multiple root
    causes including sedentary lifestyles, subsidies promoting unhealthy food, growing portion sizes.
  • Interconnected
    to poverty, education, food security, health.
  • Success is subjective
    Is a ‘soda tax’ effective or not? Do the pros outweigh the cons? What about calorie labelling?
  • Many possible solutions
    Should we be focusing on consumer behaviour? Should we experiment with taxation? Could medical research hold the answer?