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There is growing recognition among public health circles of the need for regulatory action for overweight and obesity, but there has been limited research into whether the Australian public supports government intervention. This study aimed to determine the level of public support for food-related regulations for obesity, and to assess the determinants of support.
A nationally representative sample of Australian adults (n = 2011) was recruited by market research company Online Research Unit to complete an online survey. The survey measured respondents’ perception of the obesity problem in Australia, and level of agreement on a 5-point Likert scale (strongly disagree to strongly agree) with proposed regulations in three domains; advertising, sponsorship of children’s sport, and taxation. Binary logistic regression models were run to examine the association between demographic variables and support for regulation.
The majority of respondents (92.5%) considered overweight and obesity to be a somewhat or very serious problem in Australia, and almost 90% felt there should be at least some government regulation to protect the public. Respondents agreed that the government should regulate food and beverage advertising (69.5%), with strongest support for restricting unhealthy food advertising to children (78.9%). There was lower support for prohibiting unhealthy food and beverage company sponsorship of children’s sport (63.4% agreement), and for taxing sugar-sweetened beverages (54.5%), although the majority were still in favour. Support for fiscal policies slightly increased if revenue was to be used for health purposes. Females and tertiary educated respondents showed stronger agreement with proposed regulations (p < 0.05).
The survey findings suggest the majority of the Australian population recognises obesity to be a serious health problem, and support government regulation of the food environment as a population-level preventative strategy.