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Short horizons and obesity futures: Disjunctures between public health interventions and everyday temporalities


  • Warin, Megan
  • Zivkovic, Tanya
  • Moore, Vivienne
  • Ward, Paul R.
  • Jones, Michelle


This paper examines the spatio-temporal disjuncture between ‘the future’ in public health obesity initiatives and the embodied reality of eating. Drawing upon ethnographic fieldwork in a disadvantaged community in South Australia (August 2012–July 2014), we argue that the future oriented discourses of managing risk employed in obesity prevention programs have limited relevance to the immediacy of poverty, contingencies and survival that mark people's day to day lives. Extending Bourdieu's position that temporality is a central feature of practice, we develop the concept of short horizons to offer a theoretical framework to articulate the tensions between public health imperatives of healthy eating, and local ‘tastes of necessity’. Research undertaken at the time of Australia's largest obesity prevention program (OPAL) demonstrates that pre-emptive and risk-based approaches to health can fail to resonate when the future is not within easy reach. Considering the lack of evidence for success of obesity prevention programs, over-reliance on appeals to ‘the future’ may be a major challenge to the design, operationalisation and success of interventions. Attention to local rather than future horizons reveals a range of innovative strategies around everyday food and eating practices, and these capabilities need to be understood and supported in the delivery of obesity interventions. We argue, therefore, that public health initiatives should be located in the dynamics of a living present, tailored to the particular, localised spatio-temporal perspectives and material circumstances in which people live.

Suggested Citation

  • Warin, Megan & Zivkovic, Tanya & Moore, Vivienne & Ward, Paul R. & Jones, Michelle, 2015. "Short horizons and obesity futures: Disjunctures between public health interventions and everyday temporalities," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 128(C), pages 309-315.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:128:y:2015:i:c:p:309-315
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.01.026

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Graham, Hilary, 1994. "Gender and class as dimensions of smoking behaviour in Britain: Insights from a survey of mothers," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 38(5), pages 691-698, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Farrell, Lucy C. & Warin, Megan J. & Moore, Vivienne M. & Street, Jackie M., 2016. "Socio-economic divergence in public opinions about preventive obesity regulations: Is the purpose to ‘make some things cheaper, more affordable’ or to ‘help them get over their own ignorance’?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 154(C), pages 1-8.
    2. Bissell, Paul & Peacock, Marian & Blackburn, Joanna & Smith, Christine, 2016. "The discordant pleasures of everyday eating: Reflections on the social gradient in obesity under neo-liberalism," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 159(C), pages 14-21.


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