Patterns and Predictors of Enactment of State Childhood Obesity Legislation in the United State

This research and practice report identifies characteristics of state-level childhood obesity legislation that influences bill passage rates. Bills introduced by a bipartisan group of legislators were most likely to pass.

From 2006 to 2009, childhood obesity legislation at the state level was most likely to pass into law when introduced by a bipartisan group of congressman; bills that addressed community physical activity access were most common.

Because of the enormous costs of childhood obesity, U.S. states have begun to take legislative action. Some state laws mandate physical activity in schools; others control school nutrition policies. Researchers are continually assessing governmental factors that influence the passage of anti-obesity legislation.

This research and practice report presents analyses of more than 1,500 pieces of legislation related to obesity. The data and report are part of the State Childhood Obesity Policy Evaluation, a larger multi-method project. The authors stated goal was to identify state characteristics and elements of legislation that either contributed to or obstructed bill passage.

Key Findings:

  • Legislation was most likely to address physical education and school food policy.
  • The enactment rate for child obesity legislation was significantly higher from 2006-2009 than during 2003-2005.
  • Term limits encouraged successful legislation.

This quantitative study found several characteristics of child obesity legislation that can influence bill passage.  Bills that addressed certain topics were more likely to pass into law. Childhood obesity remains a national concern.