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Identifying Alternative Frames and Values to Increase Public Support for Health Policies that Target Obesity


Objective: This research assesses how the public and experts currently think about and discusses obesity within the context of dominant causal and solution frames such as personal responsibility, proposed alternative frames, and values associated with these frames. This research also empirically tests whether exposure to two alternative frames (the Life-Course Perspective and the Manipulation frame), or two value statements (social responsibility and equality of opportunity), significantly influence support for health policies that address the social and environmental constraints that contribute to obesity. Data: This research uses 3 original data sets, including content analysis transcripts, quantitative content analysis data and experimental survey data. Methods: Strategic Frame Analysis (SFA) is used to deconstruct the dominant frames of reference that drive reasoning on public issues, including qualitative expert interviews, quantitative content analyses of online news media and online readers' comments, and a population-based survey experiment. Bivariate tests of significance and logistic regression models are estimated. Results: Experts and the public have different perspectives on causal attributes and perceptions of responsibility though common areas exist. Where experts invoke the environmental frame and social responsibility, the public invokes the personal responsibility frame and autonomy. The media also significantly influences the public's use of frames in obesity discourse. In the experimental study, exposure to both alternative frames and values significantly influenced support for one healthy policy-breastfeeding support in the workplace. No other statistically significant results were found. Implications: This research shows that exposure to any frame other than the personal responsibility could influence public opinion and support for structural-level health policies. The research also identifies a false dichotomy between the environmental frame and personal responsibility. The manipulation frame can serve as a sub-frame of the environmental frame which can be more effective in identifying specific causal attributes and solution attributes.

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