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date: 16 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter reviews medical assumptions that higher body mass is necessarily and in and of itself unhealthy, and also evaluates the social processes which contribute to scientific and popular understandings of obesity as a medical problem and public health crisis. The social implications of reinforcing and legitimizing such assumptions are then explained. There is evidence that the obesity epidemic resonates on a symbolic level for many Americans. The extent to which obesity and/or being overweight represents a public health crisis is a topic of heated medical debate. While most social scientists choose to ignore, minimize, or bracket these debates, others are examining the evidence on both sides, searching for social, political, and economic factors contributing to the emergence of obesity as a major social problem, and studying the social effects of framing higher body weight as a medical pathology.

Keywords: body weight, body mass, obesity, medical problem, public health, social problem

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