Childhood obesity is one of the most serious current public health challenges. Its prevalence has increased at an alarming rate. The World Health Organization estimated that in 2016 the global number of overweight children under the age of five was over 41 million. Although there is widespread concern about the rising rates of childhood obesity, there is not as much consensus on how to address the problem. Obesity has been mostly considered either a matter of personal responsibility or of parental responsibility when it concerns children. Inadequate attention has been given instead to the obligations borne by States to prevent and combat child obesity under international human rights law. This Article seeks to remedy such gap in the current research by discussing a comprehensive child rights-based approach that imposes positive obligations on States to prevent childhood obesity through the realization of children’s rights to adequate food, health, and participation. This Article begins by exploring the causes of childhood obesity focusing on the multiple factors that influence weight, food preferences, and eating patterns in children. The Article proceeds by examining the international human rights law framework for States’ positive obligations to fight obesity among children. It also discusses the child obesity-specific recommendations issued by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, and finally, the Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights who have further clarified the States’ central role and responsibilities in the development and implementation of effective measures and strategies for child obesity prevention. The Article concludes that the right of children to participate in the decision-making processes related to their nutrition and health in accordance to the principles of the Convention of the Rights of the Child must also be at the core of governments’ obligations to ensure the full realization of children’s rights to adequate food and to health and the adoption of more effective solutions.
Benedetta Faedi Duramy, Childhood Obesity and Positive Obligations: A Child Rights-Based Approach, 42 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 87 (2018).