State Lawmaker's Views on Childhood Obesity and Related School Wellness Legislation

Chad M. Killian, Ben D. Kern, Douglas W. Ellison, Kim C. Graber, Amelia Mays Woods

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: School wellness legislation has potential to impact the health of children and alter the obesity crisis in the United Sates. Little is known about how state lawmakers perceive child wellness legislation effectiveness relative to obesity prevention. Our purpose was to understand state lawmakers' perceptions of childhood obesity and school wellness policies relative to the Social Ecological Model (SEM). METHODS: Twenty-one state representatives and nine state senators from one US state completed in-depth interviews. Member checks and peer debriefing occurred throughout data collection and analysis. Transcripts were coded and triangulated. A conventional content analysis generated consistent themes. RESULTS: Five main themes developed: (1) child overweight and obesity is problematic; (2) current legislation is ineffective; (3) funding and enforcing child wellness legislation is difficult; (4) it is difficult to legislate personal behavior; and (5) efforts from other levels of the SEM are more effective at promoting wellness. CONCLUSIONS: Lawmakers understand negative impacts of child obesity, but perceive immediate legislative issues like budgetary concerns inhibit robust policy-oriented action. Participants believe parents, guardians, and individuals should ultimately be responsible for child wellness. Community, school, and family efforts to address childhood obesity and support wellness may be more effective in achieving positive outcomes than state and federal policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)257-263
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of School Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2020


  • childhood obesity
  • legislator perspectives
  • school health policy
  • school wellness policy
  • social ecological model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Education
  • Philosophy


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