Should governments force businesses to disclose calorie information?


Should governments force businesses to disclose calorie information?

Arabian Gulf countries’ health care is efficient but tackling obesity is increasingly important and food education will help

Countries that have a serious obesity problem face adverse consequences that extend well beyond public health into the economic domain.

Medical conditions such as diabetes are expensive to treat and they impede people’s ability to be productive members of the workforce. While the health systems of the Arabian Gulf countries are quite efficient, rising obesity here has been placing them under greater strain.

This, combined with the tough fiscal climate caused by falling oil prices, has made tackling obesity and other health problems increasingly important. That is why the Gulf countries have deployed a wide array of policies aiming to improve public health. In fact, Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 places a strong emphasis on personal health, affirming the perceived importance of a healthy population to a prosperous economy.

When governments seek to tackle obesity, the policies that get the most attention are those that mandate exercise for children in full-time education, or that improve the healthiness of food available in school cafeterias.

However, there has recently been a “nudging” revolution in the social sciences, which is based on the premise that policymakers can influence the behaviour of citizens for the better with a range of non-intrusive interventions that have little or no impact on material incentives.

One of the most frequently deployed examples is making organ donation opt-out rather than opt-in. Richard Thaler earned the 2017 Nobel Prize in economics for his breakthrough research on “nudging”, and in the context of health policy, this has led to growing interest in interventions that involve no more than modifying the nutritional information given to consumers. This is why most foods that you purchase in the supermarket have calorie information displayed clearly on the front, whereas in the 1990s, the same information would have been absent or difficult to locate on the packaging.

These informational policies are based on the premise that humans are cognitively limited, meaning that their decision-making is flawed, due to two main principles. First, at a point in time, most of your knowledge is inactive, meaning that it is somewhere in your brain but it has not been brought to the fore (activated). Second, when you make a decision, activated knowledge at that point in time has a disproportionately large influence on the decision that you make.

Should governments force businesses to disclose calorie information?

Arabian Gulf countries’ health care is efficient but tackling obesity is increasingly important and food education will help

Countries that have a serious obesity problem face adverse consequences that extend well beyond public health into the economic domain.

Medical conditions such as diabetes are expensive to treat and they impede people’s ability to be productive members of the workforce. While the health systems of the Arabian Gulf countries are quite efficient, rising obesity here has been placing them under greater strain.

This, combined with the tough fiscal climate caused by falling oil prices, has made tackling obesity and other health problems increasingly important. That is why the Gulf countries have deployed a wide array of policies aiming to improve public health. In fact, Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 places a strong emphasis on personal health, affirming the perceived importance of a healthy population to a prosperous economy.

When governments seek to tackle obesity, the policies that get the most attention are those that mandate exercise for children in full-time education, or that improve the healthiness of food available in school cafeterias.

However, there has recently been a “nudging” revolution in the social sciences, which is based on the premise that policymakers can influence the behaviour of citizens for the better with a range of non-intrusive interventions that have little or no impact on material incentives.

One of the most frequently deployed examples is making organ donation opt-out rather than opt-in. Richard Thaler earned the 2017 Nobel Prize in economics for his breakthrough research on “nudging”, and in the context of health policy, this has led to growing interest in interventions that involve no more than modifying the nutritional information given to consumers. This is why most foods that you purchase in the supermarket have calorie information displayed clearly on the front, whereas in the 1990s, the same information would have been absent or difficult to locate on the packaging.

These informational policies are based on the premise that humans are cognitively limited, meaning that their decision-making is flawed, due to two main principles. First, at a point in time, most of your knowledge is inactive, meaning that it is somewhere in your brain but it has not been brought to the fore (activated). Second, when you make a decision, activated knowledge at that point in time has a disproportionately large influence on the decision that you make.

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