State Legislation to Address Childhood Obesity

Examining patterns of state legislation that address childhood obesity

Dates of Project: April 2009 to October 2011

Field of Work: State policy addressing childhood obesity

Problem Synopsis: Millions of American children and teens are obese, putting them at risk for serious health problems. State policies that address children’s health are an important tool in reversing the obesity epidemic. However, little is known about what factors influence the passage of such legislation or the relationships between enacted policies and childhood obesity rates.

Synopsis of the Work: Researchers at Washington University analyzed state legislation on childhood obesity enacted from 2006 to 2009 to identify patterns in the topics, the presence of evidence-based components, and factors that predict successful enactment.

Key Findings/Results: States with term limits for legislators were more likely to enact childhood obesity legislation. Bills that addressed safe routes to school, health or nutrition education were twice as likely as other bills to be enacted. Bills involving product or menu labeling or a soda or snack tax were less likely to pass.