Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, November 25, 2013

Analysis suggests state-level policies to prevent childhood obesity can be effective in Wisconsin

Available online

The authors' policy analysis memo and the slide presentation on policies to respond to childhood obesity are available online. The authors prepared the materials for the 2013 Policy Solutions Challenge USA public affairs competition.

In the Policy Report

State-Level Policy Interventions to Address Childhood Obesity in Wisconsin, Fall 2013, La Follette Policy Report

Related news articles

Students discuss obesity recommendations, March 29, 2013, La Follette School News

Students win 1st place at national policy competition, March 24, 2013, La Follette School News

Improving nutrition and physical activity in child-care settings may be one of the best tools the state of Wisconsin could use to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity, which affects 14 percent of preschoolers and 9 percent of adolescents in the state.

"Research links obesity in children to a number of physical problems, including problems with insulin regulation and musculoskeletal disorders, and they are more likely to be obese as adults," says Andrew Walsh, one of the co-authors of a cost-benefit analysis of potential state interventions to address childhood obesity just published in the fall La Follette Policy Report. "Childhood obesity also has substantial social consequences, with obese children being subject to bullying, depression and discrimination."

The authors also constructed and analyzed several other prevention programs and policies, including a home visiting program, an evaluation of school-based wellness programs and a tax on sugared beverages.

Walsh and his co-authors, Selina Eadie, Miriam Palmer, Norma-Jean Simon, and Jiaqi Lu, developed their analysis for the 2013 national Policy Solutions Challenge USA public affairs competition. Their winning analysis applied techniques they acquired in professor David Weimer's fall 2012 course on cost-benefit analysis.

To target excess sugar consumption, the authors suggest basing the sugar-sweetened beverage tax on the quantity of sugar, which varies by beverage, rather than the liquid volume. Establishing this tax would force consumers to experience higher prices before they making purchase decisions, Walsh notes. "Similar taxes on tobacco have demonstrated effectiveness in reducing consumption, particularly among youth."

The proposal to evaluate school-based wellness programs recognizes schools and districts throughout Wisconsin are engaged in activities to address the health of their students, Walsh says. "The policy option on school-based wellness program evaluation aims to improve our understanding of which programs and policies are most effective at reducing obesity. With improved understanding of what works, where it works and how it works, programs can be more effectively implemented in schools and districts statewide."