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Politics of obesity

Who’s afraid of the nanny state?

Our work aims to navigate the line between the government’s responsibility to protect public health and fears of a ‘nanny state’ by developing and targeting arguments for and against specific policies in Australia.

We aim to help construct a framework to justify or critique policies relating to alleviating non-communicable diseases, such as obesity. Along with work by various researchers at the Charles Perkins Centre, ad including our successful international conference ‘Who’s afraid of the Nanny State?’ held in 2014, we will target normative arguments for and against specific public policy options in Australia. We will also conduct basic research into politics, law and ethics to provide a firm foundation for evaluating these arugments.

Politics plays a central role in the fight against obesity. However, the government’s role in safeguarding public health can play into fears that health policy will create a ‘nanny state’, compromising individual autonomy in service of the ‘greater good’. For each call for a ‘sugar tax’ there is an equal push back for individual rights.

Our work aims to navigate between these two issues, using the latest research in ethics and polical theory to explore the evaluation and justification of policy options in Australia.

Our work will identify direct connections between fundamental issues in ethics, political theory, jurisprudence and policy options for action on obesity in Australia.


  • Society and environment
  • Solutions


Project Node Leader

Professor Paul Griffiths
Professor Paul Griffiths
“Being at the Charles Perkins Centre has been the best and most significant aspect in my research career.”
View Paul Griffiths' profile