Unpalatable food for thought: Let marketing research guide effective public obesity interventions

Stephen S. Holden, Natalina Zlatevska*, Joy Parkinson, Romain Cadario, Chris Dubelaar, Jing Lei, Elizabeth Moore, Nada Sayarh, Anneleen Van Kerckhove, Carolina Werle

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The prevalence of obesity is growing unabatedly despite the considerable efforts directed at the problem. Although abundant research has contributed to our understanding of the multifactorial causes of obesity, there is less attention to research that is relevant for guiding social marketers, public health professionals and policymakers in delivering public health interventions for countering and/or preventing the problem of obesity. This review offers six points for identifying and developing research relevant for guiding community-wide obesity interventions based on the idea that an applied marketing research perspective offers a better model for identifying effective interventions than more theoretical academic research. Specifically, the research guiding public health and social marketing interventions needs to (1) provide information on ultimate outcomes (weight, health and unintended consequences) more than intermediate outcomes (beliefs, attitudes and behaviour), (2) report on observations collected over the longer term, (3) use natural settings (even at a cost of internal validity), (4) endeavour to overcome observer-effects, (5) report effect sizes (rather than statistical significance) and (6) use moderator analyses to capture variation in how a population responds to interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13141
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalObesity Reviews
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • marketing research
  • meta-analysis
  • obesity
  • public health interventions


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