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How media shape the public’s thoughts on obesity

Researchers at the University of Alberta’s Health Law Institute analyzed 360 news articles from 12 newspapers in three countries. Their findings were published online in November 2010 in the Journal of Public Health Policy. The focus of the study was the media’s role in shaping public opinion and public policy surrounding obesity. The countries were the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. The major newspapers included: The Globe and Mail, The Guardian and the New York Times. The articles, published between January 1989 and April 2009, were reviewed for:

  • “the tone of print media coverage”
  • “the characterization of obesity”
  • “attitudes toward government interventions to address obesity”

They concluded that the media does in fact shape attitudes towards obesity itself and public policy targeting the “obesity epidemic.” (Especially by using the words “obesity epidemic”). Most interesting was the correlation between obesity as an effect of lifestyle choice and coverage of personal success stories.

What do you think about the way the media covers obesity?

The full report entitled “Newspaper reporting on legislative and policy interventions to address obesity: United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom” can be read free online.


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