Most Americans agree: Obesity is a major health problem in the U.S. – second only to cancer – and most of the responsibility for fixing it lies with individuals.
There's less agreement, though, about the role the government should play in coming up with solutions.
That's according to a new survey from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, which measured the public's feeling about and understanding of obesity. California is on track to have an obesity rate of 47 percent by 2030, and the condition already affects 33 percent of South L.A. adults.
Pollsters found that nearly 90 percent of respondents said individuals and their families bear a "very large/large responsibility" for solving the country's obesity problem. Fewer people laid the a big portion of that burden on doctors (57 percent), the food industry (53 percent) or health insurance companies (30 percent).
Just above one in five Americans said the U.S. government should play a big role in finding solutions. On the other hand, 47 percent said it has "little/no responsibility" to make the situation right.
"The public maintains broad support for government policies that would facilitate a healthier lifestyle, but draws the line at policies that limit consumer choice," wrote the report's authors. Eighty-seven percent of respondents said they'd favor the government requiring more physical activity in schools, but only 20 percent said they'd want the powers that be to limit the types or amounts of foods and drinks people can buy. Another popular solution: providing folks with guidelines about how to maintain healthy diets and fitness habits.
As far as causes, 82 percent of respondents agreed that spending too much time sitting in front of screens was a major reason so many people are obese. Many others attributed the epidemic to the prevalence of inexpensive fast food (75 percent), the fact that people don't want to change (64 percent), or the fact that people don't know how to control their own weight (52 percent).
The authors also asked folks in urban, suburban and rural communities how easy it was to live a healthy lifestyle in their neighborhoods. Among urbanites, a little more than half said it was easy to get around without a car.
As obesity becomes a household term, so does the phenomenon of obesity discrimination – 75 percent said those who are obese face some sort of discrimination. The authors also delved into the matter of self-perception, finding that a considerable 41 percent of overweight respondents believed their weight to be "about right."
Another finding may shed light on the respondents' lack of awareness of their own condition: Of those polled who were overweight, only 29 percent had ever been told that by a doctor.
Photo by Jack Lyons via Flickr Creative Commons.