Porto Centro Histórico

ECO2017 Media Masterclass: Sounding Obesity Alarms

At ECO2017 yesterday in Porto, Guardian Health Editor Sarah Boseley explained the lens that journalists bring to obesity. She sparked a lively discussion with EASO leaders, health policy advocates, and EASO Patient Council members.

Sounding Alarms and Reflecting the Culture

As an experienced journalist, Boseley explained a few basics. She expressed little inclination to write about “people with obesity” because “that is not how people talk.” From her perspective, people “are obese.” They don’t “have obesity.” She described her responsibility to reflect the culture, not to shape it.

But she did express a duty to “raise alarms” about the crisis of obesity and its threat to public health. She was quick to say that journalists don’t write the headlines. But she said those headlines serve a purpose of commanding attention.

Shifting the Narrative:
Beyond Presumptions and Myths

Ximena Ramos Salas, Managing Director of the Canadian Obesity Network, made a plea. Can we shift the narrative about obesity to better reflect the facts of this disease? Can we stop perpetuating old biases against people who are living with obesity?

We must, she said, consider the complexity of obesity as a chronic disease. Reporting should account for the perspectives of people with obesity.

ConscienHealth Founder Ted Kyle explained how bias serves to perpetuate myths and presumptions about obesity. As a result, people living with obesity suffer personal harm. Ultimately, media credibility suffers, too.

The Lived Experiences of Real People

But it was Marina Biglia and Vicki Mooney who grounded these concerns in reality. As leaders within the EASO Patient Council, they brought their own lived experiences to the conversation. They described how stereotypical portrayals of obesity harm real people and mislead the public.

For the slides that Ramos Salas presented, click here. Kyle’s slides are posted here. Click here for media guidelines on portrayals of people with obesity.

Porto Centro Histórico, photograph © Francisco Oliveira / flickr

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.


May 19, 2017

One Response to “ECO2017 Media Masterclass: Sounding Obesity Alarms”

  1. May 19, 2017 at 10:46 am, Joe Gitchell said:

    Thanks, Ted, and good on all the folks who participated in wrestling with this important yet complicated issue.