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Back To Vidyya National Poll On Consumers And Health Professionals Views On American Obesity Problem Reveals Very Divergent Opinions

Consumers And Health Professionals Do Not See Eye-To-Eye On Obesity Issue

Discovery Health Channel on Friday announced the results of a national survey indicating that losing weight may not be as simple as following a health professional's advice to be more physically active and to eat healthier, lower-fat, foods. In fact, Americans have a more fatalistic attitude about weight loss than Health Professionals seem to realize.

In particular, the survey, which was developed with assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity, found that there is a large difference of opinion between health professionals and Americans over how much control people have over their weight. Many Americans feel that being overweight is due in part to factors outside of a person's control. For example, four of ten Americans (41%) said that neither overweight nor obese people have any control over their weight and two thirds (67%) feel that obese people have no control.

Of those people who report currently being overweight, 21% say they are currently not taking any steps to lose weight and 25% of these people are not planning to take any steps in the future to lose weight. Survey results indicate that a major factor in the country's weight problem is the widespread feeling that gaining weight is a natural part of the aging process. Americans also believe that weight lost through a change in diet and exercise will eventually be gained again.

Conversely, doctors, nurses and dietary health professionals said in the survey that they believe that most adults can maintain a healthy weight if they are motivated and exercise self-control. In fact, only 7% of doctors, 10% of nurses and 15% of dietary health professionals think that a person's weight is due to factors beyond their control, a direct conflict with the public's views on weight loss and nutrition.

"In an ongoing effort to measure the opinions, knowledge and attitudes of Americans about a broad range of health topics and issues, Discovery Health is committed to the education of all Americans about the increasing problem of obesity in America and the need for adults and children to take control of their health," said Kathy Quattrone, Executive Vice President & General Manager of Discovery Health Channel.

Overall, health professionals may underestimate the psychological reasons why people are not motivated to lose weight as well as the lack of efficacy or choice people feel in dealing with weight problems, the survey said. Results of the national Discovery Health Channel poll include:

  • Americans believe that the kind of food a person eats is more important than the amount of food eaten. Health professionals agree that the kind of food a person eats is important, but they also feel that the amount of calories eaten also plays a role in weight loss and weight maintenance.

  • 37% of Americans cite reasons for why people gain weight that are beyond a person's control: depression (11%), genetics (10%), metabolism (6%), personal life problems (6%) and medical problems (4%).

  • Doctors cite motivation (19%) as the most important barrier to treating overweight and obese patients.

  • Other than "liking to eat" (18%), the number one factor Americans cite for their difficulties in losing weight is will power and self-control. Americans recognize how hard it is to lose weight far more than the medical and health community.

    Discovery Health Channel commissioned Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates to conduct telephone poll interviews with the public in November 2000 and Health Professionals in February 2001. The nationally representative survey on obesity in adults and children polled 750 Americans 18 years and older and 78 doctors, 53 nurses and 41 Health Professionals (nutritionists and dieticians). This is the seventh poll Discovery Health Channel has conducted to glean information about Americans health attitudes.


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Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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