Health Zoning For Obesity Prevention: How Framing Influences Public Opinion of Land-Use Regulations Restricting Fast Food Restaurants

Kristen Cooksey Stowers, PhD
University of Connecticut Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Hartford, CT

APHA 2016 Annual Meeting & Expo (Oct. 29 - Nov. 2, 2016)

Protecting public health is the most legitimate use of zoning, and yet there is minimal progress in applying it to the obesity problem. This study explores the policy process of passing health zoning restrictions on fast food restaurants as an obesity prevention strategy. Frames, or rhetoric making some facts more salient than others, may play a critical role in how communities respond to interventions altering the local food environment through land use policy changes. To my knowledge, this is the first experimental study testing the effect of framing on support for zoning policies placing restrictions on fast-food retailers. A survey experiment was employed in order to contribute causal evidence regarding which frames public health advocates, local officials, and city planners should consider in generating support for zoning out fast food establishments. Data was collected from two national, online samples of adult Americans age 18 and over. A message frame bundling improved Nutrition and increased Equity in the food system was particularly effective at increasing support for health zoning policies targeting fast food outlets across policy categories (Conditional, Youth-related, Performance and Incentive) and across racial groups. This finding is consistent with an influential environmental justice scholar’s description of “injustice frames” as being effective for mobilizing supporters around environmental issues (Taylor 2000). I extend this rationale to food environment obesity prevention efforts and identify Nutrition combined with Equity frames as an arguably universal campaign strategy that public health advocates should consider in bolstering public support of zoning restrictions on fast food retailers.

Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs Public health or related public policy Social and behavioral sciences Systems thinking models (conceptual and theoretical models), applications related to public health