Socio-cultural studies

The WHO Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention is the first group internationally to systematically analyse socio-cultural factors in relation to food, physical activity and body size perception and translate them into community programs.

Studies undertaken by the Socio-Cultural Research Unit have identified the major socio-cultural norms, reinforced by social hierarchies, which drive the variance in obesity prevalence. The Unit's aim is to identify the key socio-cultural factors that promote obesity and how they can be influenced.

Studies are being conducted across several cultures on the socio-cultural influences on food intake, physical activity and body size perceptions because these are powerful determinants of body weight and obesity. The socio-cultural findings are being used directly to inform intervention programs.

The Socio-Cultural Research Unit is strongly committed to an interdisciplinary approach to the socio-cultural drivers of obesity, and is of the view that interventions will be most effective if they adopt this approach.

The Unit engages in and fosters the scientific study of socio-cultural determinants of obesity across the lifespan; develops socio-culturally driven obesity intervention and prevention strategies that are evidence-based; and uses research findings to advocate for policy development and reform in relation to obesity prevention.

The Unit's mission is to be a leading team in the area of theory development in obesity prevention and to excel in obesity prevention strategies that address inequalities due to social or cultural backgrounds.


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