Consumer Attitudes and Public Awareness

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Trends in media coverage suggest a striking increase in public interest in obesity. The International Food Information Council (IFIC) has been following U.S. and international media coverage of the obesity issue since

More than 5 Hours 17%

0 Hours

0 Hours

1 Hour or Less 19%

FIGURE 1-5 Daily television viewing by children and youth in hours. SOURCE: Rideout et al., 1999. This information was reprinted with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

1999 and has tracked a steady upward trend in the volume and breadth of issues covered (IFIC, 2004) (Figure 1-6).

This media focus, independent of the longstanding popularity of weight control as a consumer issue (Serdula et al., 1999), includes obesity-related topics ranging from popular diets and quick weight loss strategies to litigation against fast food restaurants to reports of new programs, policies, and research findings.

The media coverage on obesity is viewed by the public, parents, and other stakeholder groups in a variety of ways, depending on their personal beliefs regarding issues such as personal responsibility, the role of government and other institutions in promoting personal freedoms, media influences, free speech and the rights of advertisers, and the ways in which parents should raise their children, as well as on consequent responses to various population level approaches being proposed to address obesity.

While some people place a high value on the individual's right to choose what, when, where, and how to eat and be active, others are looking for advice, information, and enhanced opportunities, and may even favor government interventions that facilitate healthier choices (Kersh and Morone,

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