Journal 1

Journal Prompt: 1. Summarize “A Big Fat Crisis,” “Public Agrees on Obesity’s Impact, Not the Government’s Role” and “Who is to Blame for the Rise in Obesity.” (Write separate summary for each.)2. In the Ted Talk (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site., “A Big Fat Crisis,” Deborah Cohen claims that much of our inability to deal with the obesity crisis has to do with where we, as a society place the blame. Why does she say this? Do you agree with her? Why or why not? 3. Did the information in “Who is to Blame for the Rise in Obesity” change how you think about the obesity crisis or reaffirm it? Explain, using the article. 4. Talk about the evidence presented by Pew in “Public Agrees on Obesity’s Impact, Not the Government’s Role.” Is there a disconnect between what people think about the crisis and what is happening, or are people clear on this issue? Should the government be involved? Why/why not?I want 350 words or more for 2,3,4.The summaries should be brief and focused.And feel free to go beyond the questions…and be thinking about your essays. Happy writing!


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U.S. Politics & Policy
NO V EMB ER 1 2, 20 13
Public Agrees on Obesity’s Impact, Not
Government’s Role
Ye? to Calorie? on Menu?, No to ?oda Limit?
(http://www.people­­agrees­on­obesitys­impact­not­governments­role/11­12­2013­1/) Most
Americans (69%) see obesity as a very serious public health problem, substantially more than the percentages
viewing alcohol abuse, cigarette smoking and AIDS in the same terms. In addition, a broad majority believes
that obesity is not just a problem that affects individuals: 63% say obesity has consequences for society beyond
the personal impact on individuals. Just 31% say it impacts the individuals who are obese but not society more
Yet, the public has mixed opinions about what, if anything, the government should do about the issue. A 54%
majority does not want the government to play a significant role in reducing obesity, while 42% say the
government should play a significant role. And while some proposals for reducing obesity draw broad support,
others are decidedly unpopular.
The new national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Oct. 30­Nov. 6 among 2,003 adults, finds that
two­thirds (67%) favor requiring chain restaurants to list calorie counts on menus. But just 31% support limits
on the size of sugary soft drinks in restaurants and convenience stores – 67% oppose this idea. More than half
(55%) favor banning TV ads of unhealthy foods during children’s programming, but barely a third (35%)
supports raising taxes on sugary soft drinks and unhealthy foods. On each of these policies, Democrats and
women are more supportive than Republicans, independents and men.
(http://www.people­­agrees­on­obesitys­impact­not­governments­role/11­12­2013­2/) (The
survey was conducted before the Food and Drug Administration’s proposal last Thursday
(­tank/2013/11/07/public­has­mixed­view­on­banning­trans­fats/) to severely restrict
trans fats nationwide.) 1
While most agree that obesity is a very serious public health problem, the public is divided as to whether the
country is making progress or losing ground in dealing with obesity. Slightly more people say the U.S. is losing
ground (34%) than making progress (28%), with 36% saying things are about the same as they have been.
(http://www.people­­agrees­on­obesitys­impact­not­governments­role/11­12­2013­3/) How
much can the government do to reduce obesity? Roughly six­in­ten believe government policies and programs
can do “a lot” (26%) or “some” (35%); about one­in­five (22%) say that government policies can do “not much”
and 14% say they can do “nothing at all” to reduce obesity.
The Scope of the Problem
Obesity ranks high among perceived public health problems: About seven­in­ten adults say it is an extremely
(24%) or very (45%) serious public health problem. Americans view obesity as a less serious public health
problem than cancer (79%), but similar to mental illness (67%) and more than abuse of prescription drugs
(63%) or alcohol (54%).
(http://www.people­­agrees­on­obesitys­impact­not­governments­role/11­12­2013­4/) Far
fewer Americans say the nation is making progress in dealing with obesity (28%) than in dealing with cancer
(54% making progress), AIDS (48%) or cigarette smoking (45%). But more say progress is being made on
obesity than on mental illness (19%), alcohol abuse (17%) or prescription drug abuse (16%).
Those who see obesity as a very serious problem are about twice as likely as those who do not to say the nation
is losing ground in dealing with the issue (40% vs. 19%).
( Women are slightly more likely than men
to say that obesity is a serious public health problem (72% vs. 66%). But women also are more likely to believe
that the country has been making progress on the issue (32% vs. 24% of men).
In addition, Hispanics (83%) and blacks (75%) are more likely than whites (65%) to rate obesity as a serious
public health problem. Blacks are more optimistic on the issue: 37% believe the country is making progress on
obesity while just 16% say we are losing ground. By comparison, 39% of Hispanics and 36% of whites feel we
are losing ground.
More Democrats (77%) than Republicans (61%) view obesity as a very serious public health problem.
Democrats are more likely than Republicans to see the country as making progress (36% vs. 24%).
Those who describe themselves as overweight are as likely as others to say that obesity is a very serious public
health problem (70% vs. 69%) and have similar views about whether the country is making progress or losing
ground on the issue.
More than Just an Individual Problem
(http://www.people­­agrees­on­obesitys­impact­not­governments­role/11­12­2013­6/) About
six­in­ten Americans (63%) say obesity has consequences for society that go beyond personal impact. Only
about half as many (31%) say obesity does not have a major societal impact beyond the individual level.
Majorities in virtually every demographic and political subgroup say obesity has social consequences beyond
the individuals affected.
Republicans (60%), Democrats (67%) and independents (63%) are about equally likely to say obesity has social
consequences, as are men (62%) and women (64%). Perhaps the biggest divide is by education: 76% of college
graduates say obesity has social consequences beyond the individuals affected, compared with 68% of those
with some college and 51% of those with a high school degree or less.
Among those younger than 30, 55% say obesity has consequences for society beyond the personal impacts, 39%
say it does not have a major societal impact. Among older age groups, about three­in­ten say obesity does not
have a major impact on society.
Limited Support for Government Role in Reducing Obesity
While most see obesity as a substantial public health issue, there is limited support for the government playing
a major role in anti­obesity efforts. Overall, 42% say government should play a significant role in reducing
obesity, 54% say it should not.
(http://www.people­­agrees­on­obesitys­impact­not­governments­role/11­12­2013­7/) While
majorities of Republicans and Democrats say obesity has broad social consequences, there are sharp partisan
differences about whether the government should have a role in reducing obesity. By a margin of 60%­37%,
Democrats believe the government should play a significant role in curbing obesity. But just 20% of
Republicans say this, while 77% of Republicans do not want the government to play a significant role. Among
independents, more say the government should not play a significant role (56%) than say that it should (41%).
There are differences within the Republican Party on this issue. Nearly nine­in­ten (89%) Republicans and
Republican leaners who agree with the Tea Party oppose a significant role for the government in reducing
obesity. Among non­Tea Party Republicans, 65% oppose a government role.
Not surprisingly, views on what government should do are closely linked to perceptions of what the government
can do. About one­in­four adults (26%) think government policies can do “a lot” to reduce obesity and 35% say
it can do “some.” Roughly one­in­five (22%) say that government policies can do “not much” and 14% say they
can do “nothing at all” to reduce obesity.
Among those who think that government policies and programs can do a lot to reduce obesity, 84% want the
government to play a significant role. Nearly the opposite is true of those who believe such policies can do not
much or nothing at all – 83% think the government should not play a significant role. Those who think
government policies can do some to reduce obesity are split: 47% think the government should play a
significant role and 51% say it should not.
Among the public overall, majorities of blacks (66%) and Hispanics (69%) say that government should play a
significant role in reducing obesity. By contrast, whites are far less likely to think the government should be
involved. Just a third of whites (33%) say the government should play a significant role in addressing obesity,
while 64% disagree.
There also are age differences in views of the government’s role on obesity. About half (54%) of adults ages 18­
29 say the government should play a significant role in reducing obesity, compared with just 33% of those ages
65 and older.
While college graduates are more likely than those who have not attended college to describe obesity as having
societal consequences, they are no more likely to support major government efforts to deal with the issue or to
believe that government anti­obesity efforts are likely to be effective.
People who describe themselves as overweight are about as likely to want a significant government role (40%)
as those who describe themselves as about right or underweight (43%).
Demographic Divides on Specific Food Policies
(http://www.people­­agrees­on­obesitys­impact­not­governments­role/11­12­2013­9/) When
it comes to specific public policies aimed at reducing obesity, the public is of two minds. Proposals focused on
information and advertising draw more support than opposition. But proposals that would affect an
individual’s choice more directly are broadly opposed.
Most people are in favor of requiring chain restaurants to list calorie counts on menus (67%) and most also
support a ban on advertising unhealthy food during children’s television programming (55%). But majorities
oppose a limit on soda size in restaurants and convenience stores (67%) as well as higher taxes on unhealthy
foods and soft drinks (64%).
In recent years, New York City and other cities have banned artificial trans fats from restaurants, a policy that
slightly more Americans would oppose (52%) than favor (44%). Last Thursday – after the survey was
completed – the FDA proposed (­science/trans­fats­to­be­phased­
out­fda­says/2013/11/07/80cfc8be­47c4­11e3­a196­3544a03c2351_story.html) banning the cholesterol­laden trans
fats because they are not “generally recognized as safe.”
All five of the policies have more support from women than men, by about 10 percentage points in each case.
And in all five cases, Democrats favor a more restrictive food policy than Republicans and independents.
Among Republicans, only calorie counts in chain restaurants receive majority support (59% favor). (A provision
of the Affordable Care Act, requiring restaurants (­204_162­57573820/fda­chief­says­
writing­new­menu­labeling­law­has­been­extremely­thorny/) with 20 or more locations to post calorie counts, is
currently in the process of being implemented.)
Limiting the size of soft drinks in restaurants and convenience stores – a policy passed in New York City earlier
this year, but invalidated by a New York judge – faces broad opposition across virtually all groups. Democrats
oppose this idea by a 57% to 41% margin. Opposition outpaces support among independents by 69% to 30%,
and just 19% of Republicans would favor soda­size limits while 78% would oppose them.
There also are partisan differences in opinions about raising taxes on sugary soft drinks and unhealthy foods:
45% of Democrats, 33% of independents and just 24% of Republicans favor higher taxes on unhealthy foods.
Among Democrats, a majority of liberals (67%) supports this proposal compared with 38% of the party’s
conservatives and moderates.
More Democrats (63%) than Republicans (47%) favor banning ads for unhealthy food on children’s TV shows,
and while there is less support overall for banning restaurant trans fats, the partisan gap in views is similar
(51% of Democrats favor vs. 35% of Republicans).
Nearly half of those under 30 favor raising taxes on sugary soft drinks and unhealthy food (48%) and 45% favor
limiting the size of sugary soft drinks. By contrast, only about a quarter of those 50 and older support each of
these proposals.
More non­whites (43%) than whites (31%) support raising taxes on unhealthy foods. Similarly, 43% of non­
whites and only 25% of whites support limiting soda sizes. (The sample size for these questions was too small to
allow for comparisons between blacks and Hispanics separately.)
1. The FDA ha? tentativel? determined that partiall? h?drogenated oil?, which are the primar? dietar? ?ource of artificial tran? fat?, are not generall?
recognized a? ?afe. If finalized, the new polic? would largel? eliminate partiall? h?drogenated oil? from the food ?uppl?. ?
Appetite 68 (2013) 14–20
Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect
journal homepage:
Research report
Who is to blame for the rise in obesity?
Jayson L. Lusk a,?, Brenna Ellison b
Oklahoma State University, 411 Ag Hall, Stillwater, OK 74078, United States
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 321 Mumford Hall, 1301 W. Gregory Dr., Urbana, IL 61801, United States
a r t i c l e
i n f o
Article history:
Received 8 January 2013
Received in revised form 23 March 2013
Accepted 2 April 2013
Available online 8 April 2013
Public opinion
a b s t r a c t
We sought to determine who the public perceives as most contributing to the rise in obesity and to identify the determinants of such perceptions. A nationwide survey was conducted among 800 US individuals.
Respondents were asked to place each of seven entities (food manufacturers, grocery stores, restaurants,
government policies, farmers, individuals, and parents) into three categories: primarily, somewhat, and
not to blame for the rise in obesity. Eighty percent said individuals were primarily to blame for the rise
in obesity. Parents were the next-most blameworthy group, with 59% ascribing primary blame.
Responses fell along three dimensions related to individual responsibility, agribusiness responsibility,
and government-farm policy. A number of individual-speci?c factors were associated with perceptions
of blame. For example, individuals with a more statist score on the economic political ideology scale were
more likely to blame the government and agribusiness for obesity.
Ó 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Although the evidence clearly reveals that a larger proportion of
Americans are now overweight and obese compared to two decades ago, consensus on the causes and implications of the trend
has been dif?cult to reach (Casazza et al., 2013; Keith et al.,
2006). Within the public health community, the rise in obesity
has been heralded as an epidemic, and there is a pervasive view
that government action is urgently and badly needed. Such calls,
however, have not produced much headway in terms of actual
large-scale policy initiatives. Even among the policy alternatives
that have been aggressively pursued (such as re-structuring school
lunches, mandating caloric labeling on menus in chain restaurants,
and implementing soda/snack taxes), the resulting behavioral
changes have been modest at best (Harnack & French, 2008;
Swartz, Braxton, & Viera, 2011; Thow, Jan, Leeder, & Swinburn,
2010). Thus, despite the rise in obesity, the American public has
been relatively unresponsive to those policies designed to reduce
obesity and improve health. One possible explanation for this disconnect could be that the general public (whose opinions constrain
and inform public policy) interprets the causes of obesity differently than public health professionals. Interestingly, one study in
England showed that doctors (general practitioners) were more
likely to indicate individual factors (such as eating too much and
not enough exercise) as a cause of obesity than was the general
? Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: (J.L. Lusk), (B.
0195-6663/$ – see front matter Ó 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
public, although both groups thought individual factors were the
primary blame (Ogden & Flanagan, 2008).
Oliver and Lee (2005) identi?ed three potential causes for the
rise in obesity: (1) genetic factors (i.e., obesity is inherited from
parents, born that way), (2) environmental factors (such as poor
food offered in restaurants), and (3) personal factors (i.e., lack of
willpower, self-control). In a phone survey conducted in 2001,
individuals were asked to indicate the extent to which they agreed
or disagreed that each of these three factors could explain the
prevalence in obesity. Results of the study revealed that individuals viewed obesity as a consequence of personal factors (i.e., individual failure) more so than of genetic or environmental factors
(Oliver & Lee, 2005).
Consumer activist groups and many public health professionals,
on the other hand, have repeatedly argued that individuals are
powerless to stop the rising tide of obesity; that forces outside
their control (in other words, environmental factors) are to blame
and are in need of constraint. The following quotations are illustrative of this viewpoint:
‘‘The obesity crisis would not be solved by treating it as a personal failing on the part of those who weigh too much. . . We
must realize that our predicament cannot be solved through
individual action alone.’’ David Satcher, 16th Surgeon General
of the United States (Levi, Segal, & St. Laurent, 2011).
‘‘Obesity is not merely a matter of individual responsibility.
Such suggestions are naive and simplistic.’’ Bruce Silverglade,
Center for Science in the Public Interest (Silverglade, 2004).
‘‘We’ve got to move beyond personal responsibility.’’ Margo
Wootan, Center for Science in the Public Interest (Balko, 2004).
J.L. Lusk, B. Ellison / Appetite 68 (2013) 14–20
‘‘If only it were that simple. The harsh reality is that millions of
Americans can’t be trusted to look after their own well-being.’’
David Lazarus, consumer columnist, Los Angeles Times (Lazarus, 2012).
‘‘Everyone talks about personal responsibility, and that won’t
work here… These are things that have to be done at a governmental level, and government has to get off its ass.’’ Robert Lustig, pediatric endocrinologist, University of California at San
Francisco (Allday, 2012).
That the ‘‘food environment’’ rather than individual responsibility is to blame for the increase in obesity may, of course, be true.
Whether the general public actually believes it to be true is, however, an altogether different matter. Moreover, it may be the case
that the causes of obesity are multifaceted and genetic and environmental factors may interact with personal factors in causing
obesity outcomes.
As will be discussed more fully in the next section, it important
to note that public opinion is, at least partially, in?uenced by the
manner in which obesity issues are framed in the public discourse.
As such, different entities have vested interests in framing the debate in one way or another (Kwan, 2009). As Kwan (2009, p. 45)
put it, ‘‘Obesity is not an unambiguous medical fact. It is a social
fact that v …
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