Obesity’s Political Affiliations

Obesity’s political affiliations have been pretty bipartisan over the years. George W. Bush made obesity a key health issue in his administration, with his Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson, still advocating for better approaches today. First Lady Michelle Obama has made childhood obesity a signature issue.

So why are some social scientists suggesting that political affiliation might be a cause of obesity?Map of Political Inclination and Obesity

Michael Shin and William McCarthy, researchers from UCLA, have found an association between counties with higher levels of support for the 2012 Republican presidential candidate and higher levels of obesity in those counties. Their analysis has just been published online in Preventive Medicine.

In an invited commentary, Sara Gollust observes:

By revealing a relationship between a health outcome (obesity) and a political outcome (voting), these authors appropriately raise the profile of political characteristics as important determinants of health.

Though it’s an interesting analysis, are we really so eager to politicize obesity? Does the evidence really justify advancing the notion that voting Republican causes obesity?

We think not.

Of all the intriguing social, demographic, and biological factors associated with obesity, this one is way down the list.

Click here to read the study by Shin and McCarthy, and click here to read the commentary by Gollust.

Opinionated, photograph © Chris Coleman / flickr

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