New survey assesses Texas legislators’ views on obesity prevention
Results from a new survey show much agreement among Texas lawmakers when it comes to their perceptions of prevention and control measures to address childhood obesity. The 2013 Texas Health Perception Survey was conducted as a collaborative effort between the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health.
Eighty-three Texas legislators or their aides, representing both political parties and legislative chambers, responded to the survey during the most recent Texas legislative session. Sixteen legislators provided additional information through interviews administered in-person with the legislator or with an aide speaking on their behalf.
“Learning about the opinions and attitudes of the Texas Legislature can help inform us and other stakeholders on strategies to effectively communicate relevant scientific findings, or further areas of research,” says Deanna Hoelscher, Ph.D., R.D., principal investigator and director of the Michael & Susan Dell Center at The University of Texas School of Public Health.
Most legislators agreed with the statements “Much can be done to lower the incidence of childhood obesity,” and “Schools can have an effect on childhood obesity.” In addressing the problem, legislators responded that the largest role should be played by parents and families, followed by individuals, health care providers, and communities.
When asked about specific prevention and control measures, the highest levels of support were seen for coordinated school health programs that increase physical activity, improve nutrition, and teach children the importance of making healthy lifestyle choices. Legislators also recognized a need to increase access to healthier food, specifically fruits and vegetables, and to educate parents about childhood obesity and healthier eating habits for their kids.
“Legislators were consistent in emphasizing education and parental/family responsibility, as well as focusing on schools and early childhood education as being important in preventing obesity,” says Diane Dowdy, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Texas A&M School of Rural Public Health.
The survey results were presented in Austin at a University of Health event hosted by The Texas Public Health Coalition.
The survey was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and supported by an advisory committee that included the Texas Medical Association, Texas Hospital Association, Texas Health Institute, and the American Heart Association. The 2013 Texas Health Perception Survey report can be downloaded at tcoppe.org.