Changing Perceptions of the Childhood Obesity Epidemic

This study conducted in the year 2003 aimed at finding the general perceptions of the parents and health care officials towards the epidemic of childhood obesity. The research team concentrated on understanding whether the social perceptions and the consequent reactions have changed or not. Here the team developed an instrument to measure the attitudes and opinions regarding the gravity of the childhood obesity and overweight as compared to other problems pertaining to the youth.

The study also aimed at finding the support for effective interventions as well as drawbacks to such interventions such as the financial constraints (in the form of taxes) and negative consequences (Evans et all, Chaniging Perceptions; Am J Health Behav. 2006; 30(2):169). This study uses telephonic surveys to ascertain the range of opinions about the obesity epidemic. The goal would be to understand the level of awareness among the general public and healthcare segment. They initially select three groups for their survey: Schools, Media and Communities.

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In 2004, the researchers revised their instrument of survey and included additional questionnaire like advertising and media, obesity related health care and interventions, and work site and other adult prevention interventions. The researchers conducted a total of 1139 interviews choosing respondents from all 50 states of the USA and the District of Columbia. The response rate of 28% was consistent with the first survey’s response rate of 30%. Even though these figures are relatively low, other such surveys (Eg: The Behavioural Risk Factor Surveillance System [BRFSS] survey) too have met with approximately same level of response rates (U.

S Department of Health and Human Services; Cited as CDC 2003). Due to technological and secular trends, the response rates for telephonic surveys have been declining. Main factors for such decline are the use of cell phones, call screening facility using caller ID, and emergence of Internet as the most desired mode of communication. The researchers suspect the effects of the lower response rates to the telephonic survey processes (Flynn et all; Prevent Med. 2004; 27(3):254-257).

The researchers selected the respondents using Random Digit Dialling (RDD) methodology. We must note that the sample frame prepared by the researchers consisted of the set of all telephone exchanges that met residential telephone exchange geographic criteria. This sample was nationally representative as per the standards of the American Association of Public Opinion Research (AAPOR. org; 07:05:2010). The results of this survey showed the amount of awareness among all these segments regarding the prevention of the childhood obesity was not satisfactory.

In the first survey, over 41% of Americans perceived childhood overweight and obesity to be a very serious problem, similar to tobacco use (42%) but not as serious as drug abuse (55%, P<0. 05). In the second survey, over 47% of Americans perceived childhood overweight and obesity to be a very serious problem. This represents a statistically significant increase (P<. 01) compared to the first survey (Evans et all, Am J Health Behav. 2006; 30(2):171). Through all these data the project successfully reiterated the significance of the awareness among the parents and the primary healthcare organizations.

This study also confirmed that there is strong and growing public support for interventions aimed at reducing overweight and obesity among children and adolescents. Public support evolved in the 9 months between the first and second RTI surveys. Perceived severity of the childhood obesity health threat increased. At the same time, the public increasingly supported regulatory strategies to prevent childhood obesity (Evans et all, Am J Health Behav. 2006; 30(2):173). This study emphatically showed that the involvement of the general public is just as vital as the policy changes and obesity prevention initiatives of the government.

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