Fighting Obesity in the United States with State Legislation

by Stephanie S. Chan

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Obesity is a problem of epidemic proportions in the U.S. There is a role for government involvement to reduce and prevent this public health problem of obesity. Strategies for obesity prevention are moving away from focusing on the individual alone and towards an ecological model to address environmental and societal influences on behavior. Obesity prevention efforts are taking place at national, state and local levels. Since individual states have fiscal and legislative authority and regulatory powers for public health policy, this project will focus at the state level. Various states have already implemented nutrition standards for school meals, taxes on foods of low nutritional standards, or require weight-related assessments for children and adolescents. Given the need to address ecological factors and the complexities of the policy making process, "Does state legislation reduce and prevent obesity at the state level? If not, why?"

The study's aims are to: (1) describe the landscape of obesity prevention legislation, including how legislation compares to research-based policy recommendations; (2) examine the association between obesity prevention legislation and obesity prevalence and other weight outcomes; (3) identify the process of how obesity prevention legislation are formulated and implemented, including factors that facilitate or hinder the process; and (4) suggest strategies to improve role of state legislation in preventing obesity.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction and Background

  • Chapter Two

    Description of the Legislative Landscape

  • Chapter Three

    Association between Legislation and Obesity Prevalence

  • Chapter Four

    Understanding How Obesity Prevention Legislation is Formulated and Implemented

  • Chapter Five


  • Appendix A

    Supporting Material for Aim 1

  • Appendix B

    Supporting Material for Aim 2

  • Appendix C

    Supporting Material for Aim 3

Research conducted by

This document was submitted as a dissertation in June 2013 in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the doctoral degree in public policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. The faculty committee that supervised and approved the dissertation consisted of Sarah Meadows (Chair), Nelson Lim, and Homero Martinez.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Dissertation series. Pardee RAND dissertations are produced by graduate fellows of the Pardee RAND Graduate School, the world's leading producer of Ph.D.'s in policy analysis. The dissertations are supervised, reviewed, and approved by a Pardee RAND faculty committee overseeing each dissertation.

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