The Cold War Obesity Crisis: Fatness, Public Health, and Medical Science in the United States, 1940-1970

N. Rasmussen, ARC Discovery Project DP140101629

In 1951 the US Public Health Service declared obesity, newly reinterpreted as an addictive disorder, to be the nation’s leading health problem. This project will be the first to study the course of this early obesity crisis, analysing the interaction between popular perception, biomedical science and health policy, all in the political and cultural context of postwar America. Research will especially focus on the competing efforts of several biomedical disciplines and their scientific leaders to define the problem and shape responses to it. The goal is to understand the ways science and medicine related to social forces in the episode, and to derive lessons for today’s global obesity crisis.