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Government solutions won't cure kids' obesity, survey says

Most Americans endorse public efforts to reduce childhood obesity but don't want to do so through taxes or regulation, a new survey reveals.

Almost 91 percent of those surveyed thought parents "have a lot of responsibility" for childhood obesity, with only 16 percent saying the government holds a significant amount of responsibility, according to the report in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. People could list multiple sources of responsibility.

"The public clearly wants to reduce unhealthy, and increase healthy, food consumption among children and adolescents. However, they are wary about accomplishing these goals through intensive regulation or taxation" say W. Douglas Evans, Ph.D., and colleagues at RTI International, a North Carolina not-for-profit research institute.

For instance, the survey participants generally supported ideas like restricting the availability of unhealthy foods in school vending machines and cafeterias but they opposed raising the costs of these foods or implementing a "junk food tax," the researchers found.

Those surveyed were also overwhelmingly in favor of nutrition and exercise education in schools but not at the expense of other subjects like reading, math and science.

The national survey of 1,047 households, conducted between January and March 2004, revealed that 41 percent believe that childhood overweight and obesity is a serious problem. Most of the people surveyed said junk food and fast food, followed by too much time spent in front of the television, are the biggest culprits.

Although the survey participants did not want to see specific taxes on foods, more than 70 percent said they would support a $25 income tax increase to support government or school-sponsored childhood obesity intervention programs.

Evans and colleagues also found that households with children at home and individuals with at least some college education were less likely to support school-
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Contact: Douglas Evans
202-728-2058
Center for the Advancement of Health
30-Dec-2004


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