Public Policy Versus Individual Rights in Childhood Obesity Interventions

Perspectives from the Arkansas Experience with Act 1220 of 2003

Childhood obesity is a major public health problem. Experts recommend that prevention and control strategies include population-based policies.

Arkansas Act 1220 of 2003 is one such initiative and provides examples of the tensions between individual rights and public policy. Researchers discuss concerns raised during the implementation of Act 1220 related to the two primary areas in which they emerged: (1) body mass index measurement and reporting to parents, and (2) issues related to vending machine access.

The authors present data from the evaluation of Act 1220 that have been used to address concerns and other research findings and conclude with a short discussion of the tension between personal rights and public policy. States considering similar policy approaches should address these concerns during policy development, involve multiple stakeholder groups, establish the legal basis for public policies, and develop consensus on key elements.

This article highlights ideas generated and conclusions reached at the Symposium on Ethical Issues in Interventions for Childhood Obesity, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Data for Solutions, Inc.