Public Health Ethics 2 (3):250-260 (2009)

Catherine Womack
Bridgewater State University
Obesity is a public health problem influenced by behavioral patterns that span an ecological spectrum of individual-level factors, social network factors and environmental factors. Both individual and environmental approaches necessarily include significant influences from social networks, but how and under what conditions social networks influence behavior change is often not clearly mapped out either in the obesity literature or in many intervention designs. In this paper, we provide an analysis of recent empirical work in obesity research that explicates social network influences on eating behaviors. We argue that a relational rather than individualistic view of personhood should help us better understand the content and context of social network relations that inform health behavior choices. We introduce the concept of ‘identity-constitutive affiliations’ as the glue that binds these social relationships together. Finally, we outline the implications for public health ethics in the development of effective interventions to address overweight and obesity, leveraging the content and context of social network ties to reinforce healthy (or alter unhealthy) eating. More complex treatment of positive and negative behaviors stemming from social network connections should lead to more comprehensive theoretical models of health behavior change and more effective public health interventions
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1093/phe/php022
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 70,008
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

View all 7 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Food Ethics II: Consumption and Obesity.Anne Barnhill & Tyler Doggett - 2018 - Philosophy Compass 13 (3):e12479.
Identity and the Ethics of Eating Interventions.Megan A. Dean - 2019 - Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 16 (3):353-364.

View all 6 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles


Added to PP index

Total views
52 ( #217,886 of 2,505,158 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #277,142 of 2,505,158 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes