No New Year would be complete without resolutions to get off the couch, but don’t try to take away our precious junk good.
Americans blame too much screen time and cheap fast food for fueling the nation’s fat epidemic, a poll finds, but they’re split on how much the government should do to help.
Most draw the line at policies that would try to force healthier eating by limiting food choices, according to the poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
A third of people say the government should be deeply involved in finding ways to curb obesity, while a similar proportion want to play little or no role. The rest are somewhat in the middle.
Require more physical activity in school, or provide nutritional guidelines to help people make better choices? Sure, 8 in 10 support those steps. Make restaurants post calorie counts on their menus, as the Food and Drug Administration is poised to do? Some 70 percent think it's a good idea.
But nearly 6 in 10 people surveyed oppose taxes targeting unhealthy foods, known as soda taxes or fat taxes.
And when it comes to restricting what people can buy — like New York City's recent ban of supersized sodas in restaurants — three-quarters say no way.
Indeed, while three-quarters of Americans consider obesity a serious health problem for the nation, most of those surveyed say dealing with it is up to individuals. Just a third consider obesity a community problem that governments, schools, health care providers and the food industry should be involved in. Twelve percent said it will take work from both individuals and the community.
That finding highlights the dilemma facing public health experts: Societal changes over recent decades have helped spur growing waistlines, and now a third of U.S. children and teens and two-thirds of adults are either overweight or obese.
Today, restaurants dot more street corners and malls, regular-sized portions are larger, and a fast-food meal can be cheaper than healthier fare. Not to mention electronic distractions that slightly more people surveyed blamed for obesity than fast food.
The new poll suggests women, who have major input on what a family eats, recognize those societal and community difficulties more than men do.
More than half of women say the high cost of healthy food is a major driver of obesity, compared with just 37 percent of men. Women also are more likely than men to blame cheap fast food and to say that the food industry should bear a lot of responsibility for helping to find solutions.
More than 80 percent of people in the AP-NORC poll said they had easy access to supermarkets, but just as many could easily get fast food. Another 68 percent said it was easy for kids to purchase junk food on their way to school.
Food is only part of the obesity equation; physical activity is key too. About 7 in 10 people said it was easy to find sidewalks or paths for jogging, walking or bike-riding. But 63 percent found it difficult to run errands or get around without a car, reinforcing a sedentary lifestyle.
The AP-NORC Center survey was conducted Nov. 21 through Dec. 14. It involved landline and cellphone interviews with 1,011 adults nationwide and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.