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Identifying Novel Predictors of State Legislative Action to Address Obesity

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There is wide variation in the number and types of obesity policies enacted across states, and prior studies suggest that partisan factors may not fully explain this variation. In this exploratory analysis, we examined the association of a broad array of state-level factors with the number and types of obesity policies across states.


We analyzed 32 predictor variables across 7 categories of state-level characteristics. We abstracted data from 1652 state obesity policies introduced during 2009-2014. We used multilevel regression models and principal component analysis to examine the association between state-level characteristics and policy outcomes.

Main Outcome Measures:

Our outcome measures included whether bills involved topics that were public health–oriented or business interest–oriented, whether bills were enacted into law, and the number of introduced bills and enacted laws per state.


Numerous state-level characteristics were associated with obesity-related bill introduction and law enactment, and different state characteristics were associated with public health–oriented versus business interest–oriented policies. For example, state-level demographics, economic factors, policy environment, public programs, and the prevalence of obesity's downstream consequences were associated with the number of public health laws whereas obesity prevalence and policy environment were associated with the number of business interest laws.


Our results support the hypothesis that a variety of factors contribute to a complex state obesity policymaking environment, highlighting the need for future research to disentangle these key predictors.
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Keywords: legislation; obesity; public health policy; state policy

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2021

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