Peer Reviewed: Qualitative Research About Attributions, Narratives, and Support for Obesity Policy, 2008

Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.
Preventing chronic disease (Impact Factor: 2.12). 03/2011; 8(2):A39.
Source: PubMed


Successful efforts to reduce obesity will require public policy strategies that target both individuals and external factors such as social conditions, economic circumstances, and physical environments. Public opinion data suggest that many policy changes to reduce obesity are likely to face public resistance.
We conducted 4 focus groups involving 33 adults living in or near a midsized Midwestern city in July 2008. Participants were assigned to the focus groups on the basis of self-reported political ideology. We used a semistructured discussion guide to 1) better understand public perceptions of obesity and 2) assess the promise of narratives as a strategy to stimulate meaningful discussion about obesity-related policy change.
Participants viewed internal factors as primary causes of obesity. Despite substantial acknowledgment of external causes of obesity, many participants - particularly political conservatives - were resistant to external policy solutions for the problem. Across the political spectrum, participants responded more favorably to a short narrative emphasizing barriers to reducing adult obesity than a story emphasizing barriers to reducing childhood obesity.
This study provides a deeper context for understanding public perceptions about obesity. Some types of narratives appear promising for promoting support for policy solutions to reduce obesity.

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    • "Most policy makers, across varying levels of government, saw childhood obesity as an issue worthy of concern and attention and as a problem with many causes that needs to be addressed by multiple stakeholders at several levels. Policy maker perspectives on childhood obesity and policy were largely consistent with previous research among the general public (12,22), which suggests that public opinion research has the potential to inform the development of communication strategies to promote policy action among those with authority to pass and implement it. Knowledge of factors that policy makers see as central to the issue can inform efforts to frame the topic in ways that enhance policy support and catalyze efforts to advocate for their passage. "
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