Objective: To determine the factors associated with state legislative action to address childhood obesity.
Methods and procedures: This paper has an ecologic study design, with data on each US state from 2003 to 2006. Data on whether a bill was introduced in the state legislature and whether a law was enacted to address childhood obesity were linked to a rich set of independent variables concerning state political and socioeconomic characteristics that were drawn from a variety of sources. The association between state legislative action and state political and socioeconomic characteristics was measured using probit regression.
Results: From 2003 to 2005 there was an increasing trend toward the introduction of bills and enactment of laws to address childhood obesity. State legislative action on childhood obesity was more likely in states with a greater gap between adults' actual and desired weight, a higher percentage of college-educated adults, a higher percentage of African-American residents, a Democratic governor, or a legislature not controlled by Republicans.
Discussion: The socioeconomic conditions of the state and its political climate strongly predict legislative action to address childhood obesity. The finding that Democratic governors and state legislatures not controlled by Republicans are associated with greater policy action against obesity suggests that the 2006 election may result in additional action against obesity in certain states. This study can also be used to guide the efforts of public health advocates, who can achieve greater success by targeting their efforts toward states with conducive political environments.