Increases in the body weight of people in Australia and other countries around the world have been the subject of intense scientific, political and media attention in recent years. The placement of body weight at the focal point of discourse about health is referred to as the ‘weight-centred health paradigm’. This paradigm has become dominant in public health policy in the developed English speaking world but has been subjected to intense critique on philosophical, ethical and empirical grounds. Many of the strategies used in weight-related public health initiatives are enacted through the discipline of health promotion. Health promotion is the process of working collaboratively with people to enhance the health of individuals, groups, communities and populations using a broad range of strategies. Health promotion is the spearhead of the new public health, and is explicitly based on a set of values and principles. Health promotion practice that is underpinned by the values and principles of best practice health promotion has been termed modern health promotion. Health promotion underpinned by values and principles not consistent with best practice has been termed traditional health promotion. Despite the major role of health promotion in implementing weight-related public health initiatives, these initiatives have received little critique in relation to the extent to which such initiatives reflect the values and principles of modern or best practice health promotion. This research project addressed that gap.
Submitted in the fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, University of the Sunshine Coast, 2014.