Public and Opinion Leader Willingness to Fund Obesity-Focused Policies in Kansas

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Abstract

Obesity increases the risk for leading causes of death, including cardiovascular disease and some cancers. Midwestern and southern states have the highest obesity rates—in Kansas, one in every three adults is obese. We compared the willingness of Kansas adults and opinion leaders to pay more in taxes to fund obesity prevention policies. In 2014, we asked a representative sample of 2,203 Kansas adults (response rate 15.7%) and 912 opinion leaders (response rate 55%) drawn from elected office and other sectors, including business and health, whether they would pay an additional $50 in annual taxes to support five policies that improve access to healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity. We used adjusted Wald tests to compare public and opinion leaders’ responses, and regression analysis to assess whether differences in respondents’ gender, age, location (urban/rural), race/ethnicity, and political stance affected results. Adjusting for demographic differences, Kansas adults were more willing than opinion leaders to pay $50 in taxes for each of the five policy interventions. This study demonstrates a willingness among residents of a fiscally conservative state to pay increased taxes for policies that could reduce population obesity rates. Health professionals, including nurses, can use these findings to educate policy makers in Kansas and geopolitically similar states about widespread public support for obesity prevention policies. Public health and other nurses could also apply our methods to assess support for obesity prevention policies in their jurisdictions.

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