What Does News Have to Say About Childhood Obesity?

Childhood obesity solutions vary by media source

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Where do you get your news? Do you prefer newspaper or television news? These news sources can play a huge part in the way you think about childhood obesity and its solution.

People who prefer watching TV news may think differently about how best to end childhood obesity than someone who reads newspapers.

"How you get news impacts how you see ending childhood obesity."

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health examined the types of solutions –whether they were individual behavior change solutions or system-based solutions - from 18 national and regional news sources in the U.S.

This 10-year study found that overall, 45 percent of news sources focused on individual-level solutions like changing a child’s behavior and diet – which includes parents encouraging kids to eat more fruits and vegetables and exercising.

A little more than a third - 37 percent - of news stories mentioned school related changes like providing healthier school lunches and requiring gym or recess to increase physical activity for children. There were only a few news stories that pointed out neighborhood-level changes, like providing safer places for children to play or putting healthier options in grocery stores serving poor communities.

Researchers also found a lot of emphasis on restricting and controlling different aspects of food and beverage industries – like vending machine restrictions and food and beverage taxes. Mentions of these restrictions and taxes have declined since the beginning of the study.

Although overall news stories focused on behavior change as the solution, researchers did notice there was a difference in where the news story came from – newspaper or TV. Newspapers tend to focus on system-level, social and cultural solutions, while TV news centers on personal solution factors.

Whether or not you believe the best way to end childhood obesity is up to the government or a matter of personal responsibility is ultimately up to you, but how you get your news probably does influence your thinking.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 21, 2011
Last Updated:
June 21, 2011