May 26, 2011
Kinesiology professor, students survey lawmakers on obesity concerns
Policymakers have an important role in limiting obesity. The policies and laws they set can function as catalysts for significant change.
Katie Heinrich, assistant professor of kinesiology; Katherine Vaughan and Mellina Stephen, both master's students in public health; and Melinda Kellogg, sophomore in kinesiology and dietetics, chose to gauge the level of priority for policymakers through a survey. The survey was mailed in January 2011 to all appointed and elected state officials. It addressed a variety of topics including obesity, nutrition and physical activity, economic issues, problem behaviors, other health issues, education and governmental ethics.
The survey had a 27 percent response rate. Of the 49 lawmakers that responded, 75 percent were Republican, 18 percent were Democrat and seven percent were from another party. The top five issues identified by policymakers included: budget/spending/taxes, education, jobs/business/economy, government regulation/efficiency, and health care. The top five problems of greatest importance were: lack of good jobs, obesity, drug abuse, high taxes, and quality of public education.
Obesity was cited as a significant problem, but none of the underlying causes were cited as problems of importance. The data clearly showed that improvements were needed for policymakers’ knowledge of obesity-related factors. A colorful, user-friendly report was designed and e-mailed back to policymakers to educate them on this disconnect in an attempt to influence health policy.
The report can be accessed here.