Mainstream Print Media Representations of Childhood Obesity in the United Kingdom and Sweden

Nimegeer, A. , Lof, M., Patterson, C. , van Hooft, J. and Hilton, S. (2017) Mainstream Print Media Representations of Childhood Obesity in the United Kingdom and Sweden. 10th European Public Health Conference Sustaining Resilient and Healthy Communities, Stockholm, Sweden, 1-4 Nov 2017. (doi:10.1093/eurpub/ckx187.399)

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Background Childhood obesity is associated with a range of chronic diseases and economic costs. The UK is among the European countries with the highest obesity prevalence, while Sweden is among those with the lowest. In each country, obesity is socioeconomically patterned, and tackling childhood obesity has been identified as a policy priority. Mass media framing of the drivers of, and potential solutions to health issues can influence public and political opinion on necessary policy responses. Methods We analysed and compared UK and Swedish national newspaper representations of childhood obesity to identify how the issue has been framed to inform policy advocacy. Research comprised quantitative content analysis of 1483 articles about childhood obesity (757 UK, 726 Swedish) published between 1996 and 2014. Results Representations of the causes of childhood obesity shifted from an individual focus to a societal focus in each country between 1996 and 2014. UK and Swedish media presented similar representations of childhood obesity’s growth, its link to health risks, and the extent to which it is driven by diet, physical inactivity and parental practices. Food and drink industry marketing was mentioned relatively infrequently in each country. However, the two countries differed in terms of: whether they associated childhood obesity with males or females; coverage of the socioeconomically and geographically patterned nature of the problem; and the role played by the food environment. Conclusions The observed shift towards a socially-driven framing of childhood obesity may foster acceptance of population-level solutions, and the similarity of trends in the UK and Sweden might be indicative of wider supranational trends. Conversely, differences between each country’s framing of the problem highlight the need for public health advocacy for environmental, population-level interventions to be tailored to specific national policy debates.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item
Additional Information:Abstract published in European Journal of Public Health 27(Suppl. 3):ckx187.399
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Nimegeer, Dr Amy and Patterson, Mr Chris and Hilton, Professor Shona
Authors: Nimegeer, A., Lof, M., Patterson, C., van Hooft, J., and Hilton, S.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:European Journal of Public Health
Published Online:20 October 2017

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