Public Health Politics - A Focus on Private Behavior

Research on the impact of politics on the public health issue of obesity

As obesity began to figure on the nation's political agenda, it became clear that public health proponents needed a better understanding of the politics surrounding this topic. James A. Morone, Ph.D., a professor of political science at Brown University, conducted an exploratory study of the politics of obesity in which he analyzed lessons from the politics of past public health issues and the role of political institutions in the politics of obesity.

Key Findings

Morone reported the following findings to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and in an article in Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, 30(5): 839–868, 2005.

  • It is a myth that the government will not interfere with people's private lives. A careful analysis of American political history suggests a long legacy of government efforts to improve public health with programs that shape people's day-to-day behavior. (Report to RWJF)
  • Health care politics are changing to increasingly "focus on regulating private behavior." (Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law)
  • "Regulating private behavior introduces a distinctive policy process; it alters the way we introduce political issues and shifts many important decisions from the legislatures to the courts." (Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law)

Funding

RWJF funded this project through one grant of $36,801 from November 2002 to May 2004.