Alison Harwood

Ms Alison Harwood

Human Research Ethics Officer

Research Services

Division of Research and Innovation


My research identified and analysed ethical issues that arise and in relation to Public Health interventions to address obesity.

As part of of the Australian National Preventative Health Agency (ANPHA)-funded HealthyLaws research project, my research examined the ethical implications of the prevention of childhood obesity with the use of regulation and law.

The governments of Western democratic countries such as Australia and the United States of America continually identify obesity as a public health concern. I argue that this identification constitutes an action that itself requires ethical justification, and propose several criteria that ought to be met to provide ethical justification whenever the government identifies a public health concern, focusing on obesity as a case study.

I also develop a spectrum to categorise the approaches to weight stigma, found in academic literature, identifying and discussing nuanced variances between each position. I demonstrate that weight stigma ought to be combatted directly, and provide suggestions for weight stigma-reducing interventions.

My research identifies and analyses ethical issues that arise and in relation to Public Health interventions to address obesity. 
As part of of the Australian National Preventative Health Agency (ANPHA)-funded HealthyLaws research project, my research examined the ethical implications of the prevention of childhood obesity with the use of regulation and law.

The first chapter of this thesis focuses on whether the government is ethically justified in its identification of obesity as a public health concern. I propose that the government identification of obesity as a public health concern is an example of performative identification: it constitutes an action, and moreover it is an action of the sort that requires ethical justification. To determine if the government was ethically justified in its identification of obesity as a public health concern, I then propose three criteria by which this ought to be judged.

The second chapter closely examines the issue of weight stigma to answer the question of what ought to be done about weight stigma to improve health. To answer this question, I provide a critical review of relevant literature and develop two tools that can be utilised in a public health setting: the Spectrum of Approaches to Weight Stigma (hereafter referred to as the Spectrum) and the Matrix for Anti-Stigma Intervention Strategies (the Matrix).

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  • Appointments

    Date Position Institution name
    2018 - 2018 Research Project Officer (HE07) The University of Adelaide
    2017 Human Research Ethics Officer (HE06) The University of Adelaide
  • Education

    Date Institution name Country Title
    2013 - 2017 The University of Adelaide Australia Master of Philosophy (Public Health)
    2010 - 2012 The University of Adelaide Australia Master of Philosophy (Philosophy)
    2009 - 2009 The University of Adelaide Australia Bachelor of Social Sciences (Honours)
    2005 - 2007 The University of Adelaide Australia Bachelor of Social Sciences
  • Research Interests

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  • Journals

    Year Citation
    2019 Harwood, A., Carter, D. A., & Eliott, J. (2019). When is the government justified in identifying something as a public health concern? Obesity as a case study. Public Health Ethics.
  • Theses

    Year Citation
    2017 Harwood, A. (2017). An ethical analysis of obesity, weight stigma, and public health. (Master's Thesis, The University of Adelaide).
  • Position: Human Research Ethics Officer
  • Phone: 83136028
  • Email: alison.harwood@adelaide.edu.au
  • Fax: 8313 7325
  • Campus: North Terrace
  • Building: Rundle Mall Plaza, floor 4
  • Org Unit: Research Services

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