Public acceptability of public health policy to improve population health: A population-based survey

Catherine A Sharp*, Mark A. Bellis, Karen Hughes , Kat Ford , Lisa C.G. Di Lemma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
59 Downloads (Pure)


Background: For public health policies to be effective, it is critical that they are acceptable to the public as acceptance levels impact success rate. Objective: To explore public acceptance of public health statements and examine differences in acceptability across socio-demographics, health behaviours (physical activity, diet, binge drinking and smoking), health status and well-being. Method: A cross-sectional survey was conducted with a nationally representative sample (N = 1001) using a random stratified sampling method. Face-to-face interviews were conducted at homes of residents in Wales aged 16+ years. Individuals reported whether they agreed, had no opinion, or disagreed with 12 public health statements. Results: More than half of the sample were supportive of 10 out of 12 statements. The three statements with the greatest support (>80% agreement) reflected the importance of: a safe and loving childhood to becoming a healthy adult, schools teaching about health, and healthier foods costing less. Individuals who engaged in unhealthy behaviours were less likely to agree with some of the statements (eg 39.8% of binge drinkers agreed alcohol adverts should be banned compared to 57.6% of those who never binge drink; P < .001). Conclusions: Findings show an appetite for public health policies among the majority of the public. The relationship between supporting policies and engaging in healthy behaviours suggests a feedback loop that is potentially capable of shifting both public opinion and the opportunities for policy intervention. If a nation becomes healthier, this could illicit greater support for stronger policies which could encourage more people to move in a healthier direction.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalHealth Expectations
Publication statusPublished - 24 Apr 2020


  • alcohol
  • diet
  • general health
  • national survey
  • physical activity
  • policy
  • public acceptance
  • public health
  • smoking
  • well-being


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