News coverage shapes views of childhood obesity
If you think you know how to address the problem of childhood obesity, take a look at how you get your news.
Sarah Gollust, assistant professor in the Division of Health Policy and Management, led a recent study that looked at how various news sources framed the issue of childhood obesity between 2000 and 2009.
The study found that television news was most likely to see individual behavior changes as the answer to childhood obesity, while newspapers pointed to system-level changes as the solution.
“Our finding suggests that people who mainly get their news from TV—the majority of the population—may be less supportive of policy strategies to prevent obesity, like regulating the food industry, than those who read print newspapers,” Gollust says. “If they believe obesity is largely an individual’s problem to solve, they are not likely to rally behind public policy efforts.”
Gollust and her colleague did not look at why there was such a division in the coverage. They also noted that news interest in the childhood obesity epidemic began to wane around 2007.