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Johns Hopkins University

Principles of Obesity Economics

Johns Hopkins University via Coursera

This course may be unavailable.


Economics motivates consumer behavior based on preferences, relative prices, and time and money constraints.  Economics motivates the role for government based on market failure.  Obesity has been deemed a critical public health problem.  This course explores how consumer choices lead to individuals being different weights and discusses whether there is an economic rationale for government intervention in the markets most closely related to food and activity choices. 

Course Objectives
  • Define the concept of consumer sovereignty 
  • Describe how consumers are thought to make choices based on a combination of preferences, relatively prices, and time and money constraints 
  • Describe economic motivations for government action in markets 
  • Consider arguments regarding the appropriateness of a government role in markets that are related to obesity in adults and children


Week 1: Learn some background information about economics, and learn about the epidemiology of obesity and  about direct and indirect costs; andtake a quiz to assess what you have learned; introduce yourself to the class; and begin to have discussions using economic terminology on the BBS

Week 2:
 Learn about  both economic and non-economic influences on obesity;  take a quiz to assess what you have learned; and begin to apply economic logic to potential policies to change consumer behaviors

Week 3: Learn about the limits of consumer sovereignty, how economists motivate government policies, and what some economists think about policies that have already been tried; take a quiz to assess what you have learned; and write a basic policy analysis

Week 4: Complete the final quiz, assess the written work of your peers; and continue to discuss how incentives, information, and constraints affect individuals' choices of food and activity levels and result in individuals being widely varying weights  

Taught by

Kevin Frick


2.0 rating, based on 9 Class Central reviews

Start your review of Principles of Obesity Economics

  • Anonymous
    I loved and still love the idea of this class, as this is a major current issue for society and the course should offer a valuable perspective. I imagine the longer 7-week version is more in line with what I expected when I signed up. The 4-week v…
  • Anonymous
    Good concept, but not well executed. The content didn't fully meet the course objectives. The class was actually 3 weeks of content, and not very well integrated. Very little of the actual content was assessed. Four (actually three) weeks of content…
  • Anonymous
    While there were some interesting points and I learned a little bit about economics and the some of the questions to ask if considering whether or not a certain policy might impact people in the community's weight, the class was all over the place. There was not economic explanation and background for me. (I have no economic background and the course said it was not necessary.) The technical glitches were major and distracting. The written assignment used vague questions and then expected very specific answers. I'm not a mind reader, so I didn't know what he expected. It only allowed 75 words per answer and that wasn't enough to answer some of the questions in full.
  • Anonymous
    I had some economic background from many years ago and found it informative and thought provoking .Given that obesity is starting to be of significant public interest it was good to learn about some clear economic arguments about different interventions. It would have worked better if the basic economic slides were integrated in the video presentations . Also found the quizzes thought provoking - in helping me think through some issues
  • Anonymous
    This has received quite a bit of negative reaction from those who have taken the course, mainly for the presupposition of a decent level of economics knowledge before starting. Nonetheless, the course did give a good overview of how policy might effect obesity. Not a great course, but not bad either.
  • Anonymous
    The best things I learned were from the book that was recommended, and that the course was based upon. The lectures were mostly bits and pieces from the book. The theory presented was basic economic theory with no discussion about how you would ever construct the curves (e.g. demand curve for snacks).
  • Anonymous
    The slides were sloppy, the videos were not really professionally made. The professor did not appear too enthusiastic; in consequence, my enthusiasm rose neither.
  • Anonymous
    I will use many of the examples of the professor as examples to discredit economy. "do you know that, for economy, people are obese because they want to?"
  • Anonymous
    Poorly designed, poorly presented., and politically biased.

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