Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 141–151 | Cite as

Public health policy, evidence, and causation: lessons from the studies on obesity

Scientific Contribution


The paper addresses the question of how different types of evidence ought to inform public health policy. By analysing case studies on obesity, the paper draws lessons about the different roles that different types of evidence play in setting up public health policies. More specifically, it is argued that evidence of difference-making supports considerations about ‘what works for whom in what circumstances’, and that evidence of mechanisms provides information about the ‘causal pathways’ to intervene upon.


Causation Disease causation Evidence Evidence-based public health Obesity Public health policy 



I wish to thank Mike Joffe and Paolo Vineis for drawing my attention to obesity as an interesting case study. Rafael Blanc Moya, Lorenzo Casini, Brendan Clarke, Donald Gillies, Phyllis Illari, Jon Williamson, and two anonymous referees have been very helpful in providing stimulating comments, wise suggestions, and bibliographical references. I also wish to thank the participants of the workshop ‘Multi-level causation’ (IHPST, Paris I, 25–26 March 2010) and of the conference CitBaSS (Erasmus University, Rotterdam, 6–8 October 2010) for their feedback.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy—SECLUniversity of KentCanterburyUK

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