Public figures like Michelle Obama and Michael Bloomberg have joined in the fight against obesity in America, backing up with new and often controversial ways to curb our calories. But according to the results of a new poll, Americans aren’t exactly sure what the government should do to help people stay healthy.

What’s the Deal?

The recent poll, conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, found that 75 percent of Americans think obesity is a serious health problem in the U.S. But that’s just about where the consensus ends:

  • When asked what role the government should play in helping reduce obesity, a third of respondents said the government should be very involved; a third said it shouldn’t be involved at all; and a third were somewhere in between.
  • Most people supported the possibility of requiring more physical activity in schools and having restaurants post calorie counts on their menus. But the majority also opposed taxes on unhealthy foods and restrictions on junk food.
  • Women and men were divided, too, on the best steps for combatting the obesity epidemic. Most women said the price tags on healthy food are partly to blame for obesity, while only about a third of men felt the same way. And women were more likely than men to say the food industry is responsible for coming up with ways to help people get healthier.

The Takeaway

These results come at a time when the majority of American adults are overweight or obese. And people have only been getting more concerned about the obesity issue in the U.S., according to Gallup polls. But that doesn’t mean everyone’s on board with every government effort to promote better health. In September 2012, Bloomberg’s decision to ban the sale of sugary drinks larger than 24 oz. sparked a national freak-out, from the beverage industry and others, at what some called an infringement on personal liberties.

Some health experts say the government has a responsibility to use prevention campaigns and other tactics to reduce the healthcare costs of dealing with the obesity epidemic in the long runTackling obesity requires efficient government policies. Cecchini, M., Sassi, F. Health Division, OECD, 2 rue André Pascal, 75016 Paris, France. Israel Journal of Health Policy Research 2012;1(1):18.. Still, the only thing that’s for sure right now is there’s no one way for the government to combat obesity, and certainly no one way that will please the entire country.

What role do you think the government should play in helping reduce obesity? Let us know in the comments below or tweet the author directly at @ShanaDLebowitz.