Article

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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    • "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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    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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