From Michigan State University
Survey: Obesity a personal matter, not public concern EAST LANSING, Mich. – Two-thirds of residents in the nation's most overweight state believe obesity is a matter to be discussed around the dinner table, and not a public concern, according to results from a survey released today.
Only a third of Michigan residents surveyed said they believe overweight and obesity are public health concerns that should be addressed by society as a whole, according to the 26th State of the State Survey results released today.
"The health community and the government are saying this is a huge public problem, but people see this as more of a personal concern, more about individual choices, not something that impacts all of us," said Beth Olson, a Michigan State University food science and human nutrition assistant professor and one of the report's principal investigators.
"That's a disconnect. When we approach the public to address the problem, we need to educate them that this affects society at large, and that many of the things we need to do probably have to be done in the public health arena."
Commissioned by MSU's Families and Communities Together (FACT) Coalition, the survey was performed by the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research (IPPSR). It has a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percent.
Michigan has the eighth highest rate for adult obesity (22.4 percent) and is first among the states in being overweight (38.7 percent). In the past decade, the level of adult obesity in Michigan adults has increased by 41 percent.
The United States spends $99.2 billion per year due to overweight and obesity. In general, adults whose weight is 20 percent above their recommended weight for their height are considered overweight, while persons who are 30 percent above recommended weight are obese.
When presented with various methods to address obesity in Michigan, survey respondents were more supportive of proactive measures, such as recreational facilities, to help people reach healthy weights than punitive ones, such as taxing fast food or increasing insurance premiums.
"An important implication of this work is that we need to raise public awareness about the health consequences of obesity in order to stimulate both community action and personal lifestyle change," said FACT co-director Cheryl Booth.
Other survey results include:
- Most respondents (89 percent) strongly and somewhat favored spending tax dollars on recreational facilities in the community, such as more walking or bicycle paths.
- More than half (54 percent) favored encouraging employers to provide ways to take part in physical activity at work, such as having exercise equipment on site.
- About 73 percent were concerned about their own weight, with almost half of women and more than a third of men reporting that they are overweight.
- Those with the highest incomes (at least $40,000) were the most likely to report being at a healthy weight (61.6 percent) versus 36.9 percent for those earning less.
"Obesity is a critical social and health issue for all citizens, and MSU has extraordinary expertise in areas like nutrition, health and education that can help communities and families reduce the consequences of this personal and public concern," said FACT co-director Janet Bokemeier.
FACT is MSU's multidisciplinary research, Extension and outreach coalition. The SOSS is administered by IPPSR's Office for Survey Research. A quarterly statewide telephone survey of about 1,000 adult residents in Michigan, SOSS is designed to provide a regular systematic monitoring of the public mood on important issues in the state.
Survey results were released today during a forum titled "Obesity: A Personal or Public Health Issue?" Forum participants discussed whether obesity and overweight are a public health concern that should be addressed by society as a whole or whether they are only the business of the individuals. The noon to 2 p.m. event was held at the Library of Michigan's Lake Ontario Room in Lansing.
Panelists from MSU, the Michigan Department of Community Health and the Michigan Department of Education discussed existing and proposed programs and practices to address the issue and opened a discussion about implications for public policy and action.
For more information, please contact Amy Baumer of IPPSR at (517) 355-6672, Ext. 132; or Shruti Vaidya of FACT at (517) 353-5928.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: The forum will be Web cast live by WMSU.org and will be available for viewing on demand on Friday, March 21.]