36370 Perceptions of Obesity-Related Issues in U.S. Communities: Findings from a National Survey

Suzanne Gates, MPH1, Thomas Lehman, MA2, Rebecca Ledsky, MBA2 and Andre Weldy, MPH2, 1Division of Community Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, 2Social Marketing and Communication, FHI 360, Washington, DC

Theoretical Background and research questions/hypothesis:  Since 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Division of Community Health (DCH) has provided funding to communities to address obesity prevention, prevent and control chronic disease, and decrease tobacco use and exposure. To improve health, it is important for communities to understand and impact domains such as attitudes, beliefs, and actions relevant to individuals and communities. These obesity-related data provide national information that reflect the status of these domains.

Methods:  Since 2011, CDC/DCH licensed data from the Porter Novelli FallStyles survey. Questions were developed specifically to measure obesity-related domains. The 2014 FallStyles survey, fielded in September 2014, recruited 3,520 respondents from Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung’s (GfK) nationally representative online research panel. Weighted, descriptive analyses explored obesity-related domains such as attitudes about obesity-related community issues, attitudes about the importance of community involvement, and knowledge and beliefs about the causes of becoming overweight.

Results:  Overall, most adults tended to agree that obesity, both childhood (55%) and adult (64%), are problems in their community and that community involvement is important to solving these issues (54% and 53%, respectively). 58% of adults felt that the best way to solve the problem of obesity required community-level solutions, rather than wholly individual-level approaches. Most agreed that it is important for their community to be involved in addressing obesity-related issues such as children not getting enough physical activity in schools (59%), lack of access to places for children to be active (57%), and children not getting enough healthy food and drinks (56%). Over half agreed that their community should be doing more for children to increase physical education and physical activity in schools (55%), make it easier to be active (54%), and get healthy foods and drinks (53%). These attitudes were relatively unchanged from 2011. Over half of the adults were taking action to consume healthy food (65%) and healthy drinks (65%) and to be active (56%). 58% of adults recalled a message in the past 30 days encouraging individuals to take personal obesity-related action while 36% recalled a message about community-level obesity-related efforts.

Conclusions:  Overweight-obesity is a problem for a majority of adults in the United States, and they recognize the problem as including issues of access to healthy foods and drinks as well as a lack of places and means to be active. Programs that address overweight-obesity through community approaches are acceptable to a majority of adults. While many adults are doing things to address overweight-obesity, there is opportunity for additional engagement. There is general agreement that the community should be involved in developing these obesity-related solutions.

Implications for research and/or practice: Americans view childhood and adult obesity as community problems and are amenable to community-level solutions. There is support for programs to address obesity-related topics through community- and individual-level approaches. While message exposure was not assessed, message recall tends to reinforce individual approaches. Given 2014 obesity-related attitudes remain similar to those in 2011, innovative and memorable messages might bolster obesity-related efforts, particularly those that address community-level needs.