The “Childhood Obesity Epidemic”:
Health Crisis or Social Construction?
Article first published online: 16 MAR 2010
© 2010 by the American Anthropological Association
Medical Anthropology Quarterly
Volume 24, Issue 1, pages 1–21, March 2010
How to Cite
Moffat, T. (2010), The “Childhood Obesity Epidemic”:. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 24: 1–21. doi: 10.1111/j.1548-1387.2010.01082.x
- Issue published online: 16 MAR 2010
- Article first published online: 16 MAR 2010
- social constructivism]
There has been a meteoric rise over the past two decades in the medical research and media coverage of the so-called global childhood obesity epidemic. Recently, in response to this phenomenon, there has been a spate of books and articles in the fields of critical sociology and cultural studies that have argued that this “epidemic” is socially constructed, what Natalie Boero (2007) dubs a “postmodern epidemic.” As an anthropologist who has studied child nutrition and obesity in relation to poverty and the school environment, I am concerned about both the lack of reflexivity among medical researchers as well as critical scholars’ treatment of the problem as entirely socially constructed. In this article I present both sides of this debate and then discuss how we can attempt to navigate a middle course that recognizes this health issue but also offers alternative approaches to those set by the biomedical agenda.