Can governments nudge away obesity?

Executive summary

* Behavioural scientists generally, and an organisation called the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) specifically, played a significant role in advising government during the Covid-19 era.

* One of the earliest behavioural scientist publications advised that a substantial number of people didn’t feel threatened enough [by Covid] and their level of personal threat needed to be increased with hard-hitting emotional messaging.

* Few people are aware of how fear was 'weaponised' in this way.

* The BIT has published a report (Nov 2022), which examines four UK government obesity prevention policies. The BIT has taken it upon itself to do this; no doubt to continue to see itself as an authority on government matters.

* The BIT report collated government estimates of benefits from the four policies and gathered them together in a table. It didn't critique them (other than to suggest they were underestimates).

* The benefits were estimated to be between an absurdly wide range of £1.75 and £296 billion over 25 years. The BIT reported this, rather than challenging it.

* The benefits were estimated to accrue in four different ways. Again, the BIT reported this, rather than critiquing it.

* There's a simple way to test whether government restrictions are having any impact on obesity. The BIT didn't bother looking at this. There are also far better ways of addressing obesity. The BIT didn’t investigate these either.

* The report is underwhelming. The BIT’s likely motivation for writing it is more interesting.


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