Fighting Obesity or Obese Persons? Public Perceptions of Obesity-Related Health Messages

Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA.
International journal of obesity (2005) (Impact Factor: 5.39). 09/2012; 37(6). DOI: 10.1038/ijo.2012.156
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT OBJECTIVE:This study examined public perceptions of obesity-related public health media campaigns with specific emphasis on the extent to which campaign messages are perceived to be motivating or stigmatizing.METHOD:In summer 2011, data were collected online from a nationally representative sample of 1014 adults. Participants viewed a random selection of 10 (from a total of 30) messages from major obesity public health campaigns from the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, and rated each campaign message according to positive and negative descriptors, including whether it was stigmatizing or motivating. Participants also reported their familiarity with each message and their intentions to comply with the message content.RESULTS:Participants responded most favorably to messages involving themes of increased fruit and vegetable consumption, and general messages involving multiple health behaviors. Messages that have been publicly criticized for their stigmatizing content received the most negative ratings and the lowest intentions to comply with message content. Furthermore, messages that were perceived to be most positive and motivating made no mention of the word 'obesity' at all, and instead focused on making healthy behavioral changes without reference to body weight.CONCLUSION:These findings have important implications for framing messages in public health campaigns to address obesity, and suggest that certain types of messages may lead to increased motivation for behavior change among the public, whereas others may be perceived as stigmatizing and instill less motivation to improve health.International Journal of Obesity advance online publication, 11 September 2012; doi:10.1038/ijo.2012.156.

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Available from: Rebecca M Puhl, Nov 24, 2014
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    • "Public health messages that are free of weight focus also appear to be more acceptable to the public and more likely to encourage healthy behaviors than messages emphasizing weight control or obesity prevention. For example, a large nationally representative U.S. survey revealed that participants responded most favorably to public health messages that promoted healthy behaviors without any reference to weight or obesity at all [155]. The survey further showed that messages perceived as weight stigmatizing were negatively received and rated less likely to foster healthy behavior change. "
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    ABSTRACT: USING AN ETHICAL LENS, THIS REVIEW EVALUATES TWO METHODS OF WORKING WITHIN PATIENT CARE AND PUBLIC HEALTH: the weight-normative approach (emphasis on weight and weight loss when defining health and well-being) and the weight-inclusive approach (emphasis on viewing health and well-being as multifaceted while directing efforts toward improving health access and reducing weight stigma). Data reveal that the weight-normative approach is not effective for most people because of high rates of weight regain and cycling from weight loss interventions, which are linked to adverse health and well-being. Its predominant focus on weight may also foster stigma in health care and society, and data show that weight stigma is also linked to adverse health and well-being. In contrast, data support a weight-inclusive approach, which is included in models such as Health at Every Size for improving physical (e.g., blood pressure), behavioral (e.g., binge eating), and psychological (e.g., depression) indices, as well as acceptability of public health messages. Therefore, the weight-inclusive approach upholds nonmaleficience and beneficience, whereas the weight-normative approach does not. We offer a theoretical framework that organizes the research included in this review and discuss how it can guide research efforts and help health professionals intervene with their patients and community.
    Journal of obesity 07/2014; 2014:983495. DOI:10.1155/2014/983495
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    • "An important part of any social marketing initiative is to understand the range of cultural and environmental factors that may influence the way in which an individual, or groups, receive, interpret and apply messages about, in this case, obesity. Further research will provide important information about how individuals form their opinions, and any factors that may lead to disconnectedness between groups of individuals and messages that are given about weight and health [44]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Current population-based anti-obesity campaigns often target individuals based on either weight or socio-demographic characteristics, and give a 'mass' message about personal responsibility. There is a recognition that attempts to influence attitudes and opinions may be more effective if they resonate with the beliefs that different groups have about the causes of, and solutions for, obesity. Limited research has explored how attitudinal factors may inform the development of both upstream and downstream social marketing initiatives. Computer-assisted face-to-face interviews were conducted with 159 parents and 184 of their children (aged 9--18 years old) in two Australian states. A mixed methods approach was used to assess attitudes towards obesity, and elucidate why different groups held various attitudes towards obesity. Participants were quantitatively assessed on eight dimensions relating to the severity and extent, causes and responsibility, possible remedies, and messaging strategies. Cluster analysis was used to determine attitudinal clusters. Participants were also able to qualify each answer. Qualitative responses were analysed both within and across attitudinal clusters using a constant comparative method. Three clusters were identified. Concerned Internalisers (27% of the sample) judged that obesity was a serious health problem, that Australia had among the highest levels of obesity in the world and that prevalence was rapidly increasing. They situated the causes and remedies for the obesity crisis in individual choices. Concerned Externalisers (38% of the sample) held similar views about the severity and extent of the obesity crisis. However, they saw responsibility and remedies as a societal rather than an individual issue. The final cluster, the Moderates, which contained significantly more children and males, believed that obesity was not such an important public health issue, and judged the extent of obesity to be less extreme than the other clusters. Attitudinal clusters provide new information and insights which may be useful in tailoring anti-obesity social marketing initiatives.
    International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 10/2013; 10(1):117. DOI:10.1186/1479-5868-10-117 · 3.68 Impact Factor
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    • "However, for other programs, stigma and blame appear to be at the core of their messaging strategy (such as the Strong4Life campaign). The available evidence would suggest that the former approach is more effective and motivating than the latter (Puhl, Peterson, and Luedicke 2012b), and our resources should therefore be invested in supporting those types of programs. "
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    ABSTRACT: Several recent anti-obesity campaigns appear to embrace stigmatization of obese individuals as a public health strategy. These approaches seem to be based on the fundamental assumptions that (1) obesity is largely under an individual's control and (2) stigmatizing obese individuals will motivate them to change their behavior and will also result in successful behavior change. The empirical evidence does not support these assumptions: Although body weight is, to some degree, under individuals' personal control, there are a range of biopsychosocial barriers that make weight regulation difficult. Furthermore, there is accumulating evidence that stigmatizing obese individuals decreases their motivation to diet, exercise, and lose weight. Public health campaigns should focus on facilitating behavioral change, rather than stigmatizing obese people, and should be grounded in the available empirical evidence. Fundamentally, these campaigns should, first, do no harm.
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