Consumers want freedom to choose

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We’re Americans and we’ll eat whatever we darn-well please. That seems to be a clear message from respondents to a national survey on public perceptions of obesity from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Results of the study indicate that while most Americans recognize obesity as a serious public-health issue, they also generally believe people should be responsible for their own food choices.

Overall, the research results indicate 75 percent of Americans believe being overweight or obese is an extremely or very serious health problem for people in this country. In fact, they rate overweight and obese conditions second only to cancer, and above diabetes, heart disease and smoking in terms of degree of seriousness.

As for the causes of obesity, 82 percent identified too much time in front of TV and computers as a major cause, followed by fast food being easy to find (75 percent). Forty percent listed a lack of information about what is in their food as a major cause.

The survey also included several questions regarding responsibility for addressing the problem. When asked if maintaining a healthy weight is an issue for individuals and families or communities to deal with, 52 percent said that it is up to individuals and families to deal with on their own, 34 percent said the whole community, including schools, government, health-care providers, and the food industry should address and 12 percent indicated it is an issue for both individuals and communities.

Asked to rate the degree of responsibility for solving the nation’s weight problems, 88 percent said individual people and 87 percent said parents of family members have high or very high responsibility. From there, the percentage indicating high or very high responsibility dropped off to 57 percent for doctors and health-care professionals, 53 percent for the food industry, 50 percent for schools, 33 percent for health insurance companies, 23 percent for the federal, state or local government, and 14 percent for employers.

The survey results also show strong public support for government playing a role in providing information on nutrition and exercise and encouraging healthy lifestyles, but considerable less support for regulations or policies that limit food choices.

Eighty-four percent of respondents indicated they favor policies that add more physical activity time in schools, 83 percent believe the government should provide information to help people to make healthy choices and 74 percent favor government funding for farmers markets and bike paths.

However, only about 15 percent favor government policies limiting the types or amounts of foods and drinks people can buy, and 31 percent favor placing additional taxes on unhealthy foods or drinks.

Read a summary or the full research report from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

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St. Paul  |  January, 07, 2013 at 12:54 PM

Warning, fringe perspective. Time in front of the television. Really? The spread of food in the photograph at the lead of this article does not represent the problem, it also does not represent the way Americans eat. For a clue look at the layout of your mainstream grocery store and you'll see predominantly processed foods. This food comes in a box, a pouch, or a bag and is generally cheap enough to find it's way into almost everyone's grocery cart. Foods that require kitchen equipment, knowledge, and skill are hardly given any shelf space in a conventional store and they're expensive in comparison. Unless you consider hitting a timer and a start button "kitchen skill" I can't see how this isn't obvious. Processed food releases it's calories so quickly in the human digestive tract that it is absorbed like a drug. Processed food inputs are frequently made with subsidized crops, keeping prices down, and profits high in the food industry. A simultaneous explosion in public health cost is a mystery? Really?

kansas  |  January, 11, 2013 at 08:18 PM

Where were all these people in November? The Nanny State was re-elected, lauded and "mandated" to micro-manage our childrens' home-made lunch content, how many calories school lunches may contain and how large a sugar drink we may purchase. Seems silly that they should now decide they want to eat what they want to eat, and dare to oppose 1st Lady Michele's dictates on what she believes they must eat - by law. I believe all these free-thinkers just need to shut-up, sit-down and do what they're told... cause their intellectual and moral betters know what's good for them.

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