Framing Obesity: The Evolution of News Discourse on a Public Health Issue

By Regina G. Lawrence

A paper by Regina G. Lawrence, fall 2003 fellow, assesses the framing of obesity in news coverage since 1985 to determine whether obesity is being reframed as a systemic problem, rather than a personal one. The data suggest that a vigorous frame contest is currently under way between arguments emphasizing personal responsibility for health and arguments emphasizing the social environment, including corporate and public policy. The evidence suggests that one of these frame dimensions (environmental risk) has moved decisively toward the systemic pole, while two frame dimensions (involuntary and knowingly created risk) have not moved toward the systemic pole, and the movement of the fourth dimension (risk to everyone) is uncertain.

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