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Keywords:

  • Child;
  • obesity;
  • Australia;
  • public health

Abstract

Objective: To examine how the issue of childhood obesity is represented in Australian newsprint media and academic literature.

Method: Australian newsprint media coverage and academic literature on childhood obesity during the first three months of 2009 was analysed using Bacchi's method of problem representation.

Results: The two types of literature examined offered two dominant paradigms for childhood obesity treatment and prevention solutions: the individual and the social-structural. The individual behaviour change account emphasises the role of parents in providing children with healthy food and physical activity, placing them at fault for their obese children. The account focusing on the circumstances within which people live – such as the physical environment, lifestyle, socio-economic status, access to services and advertising/marketing of food aimed at children – places responsibility on the government to respond with policy change.

Conclusion: While both the individual and social-structural paradigms are found in each source, newsprint media favours the individual responsibility account while the academic literature favours the social-structural account.

Implications: Public health professionals may need to be more media savvy to shift this focus.