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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

"The solution needs to be complex." Obese adults' attitudes about the effectiveness of individual and population based interventions for obesity

Samantha L Thomas1*, Sophie Lewis1, Jim Hyde2, David Castle3 and Paul Komesaroff4

Author Affiliations

1 Consumer Health Research Group (CHaRGe), Primary Care Research Unit, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

2 Department of Health, Victoria and Faculty of Medicine, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia

3 Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

4 Department of Medicine, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:420  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-420

Published: 15 July 2010



Previous studies of public perceptions of obesity interventions have been quantitative and based on general population surveys. This study aims to explore the opinions and attitudes of obese individuals towards population and individual interventions for obesity in Australia.


Qualitative methods using in-depth semi-structured telephone interviews with a community sample of obese adults (Body Mass Index ≥30). Theoretical, purposive and strategic recruitment techniques were used to ensure a broad sample of obese individuals with different types of experiences with their obesity. Participants were asked about their attitudes towards three population based interventions (regulation, media campaigns, and public health initiatives) and three individual interventions (tailored fitness programs, commercial dieting, and gastric banding surgery), and the effectiveness of these interventions.


One hundred and forty two individuals (19-75 years) were interviewed. Participants strongly supported non-commercial interventions that were focused on encouraging individuals to make healthy lifestyle changes (regulation, physical activity programs, and public health initiatives). There was less support for interventions perceived to be invasive or high risk (gastric band surgery), stigmatising (media campaigns), or commercially motivated and promoting weight loss techniques (commercial diets and gastric banding surgery).


Obese adults support non-commercial, non-stigmatising interventions which are designed to improve lifestyles, rather than promote weight loss.