Published: March 2015

ID #: 68051

Journal: Milbank Q

Authors: Wolfson JA, Gollust SE, Niederdeppe J, Barry CL

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This study investigated how public attitudes toward the role of parents in the obesity epidemic might influence support for various obesity reduction strategies. Researchers analyzed data from two national public opinion surveys from 2011 and 2012 to examine attributions of blame and responsibility to parents for obesity, both among the general public and parents themselves, and explored the relationship between views of parents and support for obesity prevention policies. Attribution of blame and responsibility to parents was consistently high, regardless of parental status or gender. Support for policies to curb childhood obesity also did not differ notably by parental status or gender. High parental responsibility was linked to higher support for school-targeted policies but generally was not associated with policies outside the school setting. Those who viewed external actors (i.e., the food and beverage industry, schools, and the government) as responsible for addressing childhood obesity were more willing to support a wider range of population-based prevention policies. The complex nature of obesity highlights the importance of mobilizing key segments  of the public to put pressure on policymakers and industry to make changes; these findings suggest that mobilizing parents to support childhood obesity policies outside the school setting may be challenging.

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