Background: Intervention strategies to reduce obesity include policy and environmental changes that are designed to provide opportunities, support, and cues to help people develop healthier behaviors. Policy changes at the state level are one way to influence access, social norms, and opportunities for better nutrition and increased physical activity among the population.
Methods: Ten states were selected for a broad variance in obesity rates and number of enacted obesity prevention policies during the years of 2006-2009. Within the selected states, a purely qualitative study of attitudes of childhood obesity policy using semistructured telephone interviews was conducted. Interviews were conducted with state policy makers who serve on public health committees. A set of six states that had more than eight childhood obesity policies enacted were selected for subsequent qualitative interviews with a convenience sample of well-established advocates.
Results: Policy makers in states where there was more childhood obesity policy action believed in the evidence behind obesity policy proposals. Policy makers also varied in the perception of obesity as a constituent priority. The major differences between advocates and policy makers included a disconnect in information dissemination, opposition, and effectiveness of these policies.
Conclusions: The findings from this study show differences in perceptions among policy makers in states with a greater number of obesity prevention bills enacted. There are differences among policy makers and advocates regarding the role and effectiveness of state policy on obesity prevention. This presents an opportunity for researchers and practitioners to improve communication and translation of evidence to policy makers, particularly in states with low legislation.