An analysis of news coverage of childhood obesity suggests attention to the topic has already waned, and that media framing of the issue and its causes, which can influence public opinion, shifted over time and varied by media type.
Facing stubborn rates of childhood obesity, health officials have renewed efforts to slim down kids. But people are less likely to endorse government action on this problem if they think obesity is the result of child or parent behaviors, as most Americans (64%) do. Just 18 percent think systemic conditions, (i.e., access to healthy food, the food and beverage industry, etc.) contribute to the problem. Research shows that public views are influenced by both the amount of news coverage and media framing of an issue. In this first study to comprehensively analyze news media coverage of childhood obesity, researchers examined a random 20 percent sample of news items on this issue that appeared from 2000 through 2009 in 18 media outlets representing geographic and ideologic diversity. The content of 806 stories was analyzed.
The authors note that television news gave significantly less attention to story angles related to the food and beverage industry, raising concerns that ad spending by that industry is influencing content.