01/09/2012 07:19 EST | Updated 03/10/2012 05:12 EST

Canadians think feds must do more to combat childhood obesity, survey suggests

TORONTO - A new survey suggests Canadians would like to see the Federal government get more involved in the fight against childhood obesity.

Ipsos-Reid conducted the survey on behalf of the Public Health Agency of Canada to determine what kind of a role governments should play in the battle of the bulge in those under 18.

About 61 per cent of the general public believe Ottawa doesn't do enough to combat childhood obesity, while 70 per cent say they strongly support government initiatives that would educate kids on healthy choices.

Among parents of kids under 18, 63 per cent say the government needs to get more involved.

About 70 per cent of survey respondents in both categories say the Feds should provide funding to build recreation centres and provide resources that would make it easier for kids to build exercise into their lives.

The telephone survey of more than 1,200 people was conducted between Mar. 18 to 28 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8.

Although survey respondents didn't hesitate to put some onus on the government to engage more with efforts to keep the country's children healthy, the vast majority said the most important allies are found at home. The poll found 98 per cent in both respondent groups believe parents have a major role to play in fighting childhood obesity.

The issue is seen as one of significant public concern, however, with 71 per cent of those in the general public and 77 per cent of parents saying childhood obesity is a public matter that must be addressed as a society rather than a personal problem that should be tackled in private.

Survey respondents felt obesity was the leading health issue facing children today, with 31 per cent of the general public and 33 per cent of parents identifying it as the most pressing problem. Obesity ranked well ahead of drugs and alcohol, access to health care, mental health and smoking.

Lack of exercise and poor eating habits were viewed as the most common causes of childhood obesity