Foresight – using scenarios to shape the future of agricultural research

  • Schwab P
  • Cerutti F
  • Hélène von Reibnitz U
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Rates of obesity and overweight have increased sharply in the UK since the mid-1980s and are projected to continue to rise until 20101 . The purpose of this modelling exercise, commissioned by the Foresight programme as part of the Tackling Obesities: Future Choices project, is to project the growth, or otherwise, of obesity rates through to 2050 and to predict the consequences for health, health costs and life expectancy. A cell-based simulation was planned in order to test the effects of changing the main determinants of obesity on obesity rates. Two developments changed this approach. First, although attempts have been made to model the impacts of policy interventions by a team in Australia2 , the early Foresight systems mapping work3 clearly demonstrated that the determinants of obesity were too complex for such a modelling process to be reliable. Secondly, close inspection of 12 years of data from the Health Survey for England1 demonstrated extraordinary order and consistency in obesity trends. The case for making reliable projections from these data, entirely independent of identifying possible determinants, was irresistible, and this is the course that has been pursued. This does not exclude the possibility of incorporating epidemiological impact analysis into any future iterations of this model. This report considers the following questions in turn: • What will be the likely distribution of overweight and obesity across the population over the next 40 years? • What will be the likely health and cost consequences of these extrapolated overweight and obesity trends? • How much might these consequences be altered by effective interventions to reduce body mass index (BMI) across the population or in targeted subgroups?

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  • Patrick Schwab

  • Fabio Cerutti

  • Ute Hélène von Reibnitz

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