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.