A framework for evaluating the impact of obesity prevention strategies on socioeconomic inequalities in weight

Am J Public Health. 2014 Oct;104(10):e43-50. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2014.302066. Epub 2014 Aug 14.


We developed a theoretical framework to organize obesity prevention interventions by their likely impact on the socioeconomic gradient of weight. The degree to which an intervention involves individual agency versus structural change influences socioeconomic inequalities in weight. Agentic interventions, such as standalone social marketing, increase socioeconomic inequalities. Structural interventions, such as food procurement policies and restrictions on unhealthy foods in schools, show equal or greater benefit for lower socioeconomic groups. Many obesity prevention interventions belong to the agento-structural types of interventions, and account for the environment in which health behaviors occur, but they require a level of individual agency for behavioral change, including workplace design to encourage exercise and fiscal regulation of unhealthy foods or beverages. Obesity prevention interventions differ in their effectiveness across socioeconomic groups. Limiting further increases in socioeconomic inequalities in obesity requires implementation of structural interventions. Further empirical evaluation, especially of agento-structural type interventions, remains crucial.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Body Weights and Measures
  • Environment
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Policy
  • Health Promotion / organization & administration*
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Socioeconomic Factors