Geographic and Longitudinal Trends in Media Framing of Obesity in the United States

Jonathan Chiang, Abigail Arons, Jennifer L. Pomeranz, Arjumand Siddiqi, Rita Hamad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: The media’s framing of public health issues is closely linked to public opinion on these issues and support for interventions to address them. This study characterized geographic and temporal variation in the US media’s framing of obesity across states from 2006 to 2015. Methods: Newspaper articles that mentioned the term obesity were drawn from Access World News (NewsBank, Inc., Naples, Florida), a comprehensive online database (N = 364,288). This study employed automated content analysis, a machine learning technique, to categorize articles as (1) attributing obesity to individual-level causes (e.g., lifestyle behaviors), (2) attributing obesity to environmental/systemic causes (e.g., neighborhood walkability), (3) attributing obesity to both individual-level causes and environmental/systemic causes, or (4) articles without any such attribution framework. Results: Nationwide across all years, a higher proportion of articles focused on individual-level attribution of obesity than environmental-level attribution or both. Missouri and Idaho had the highest proportions of articles with an individual framework, and Nevada, Arkansas, and Wisconsin had the highest proportions of articles with an environmental framework. Conclusions: This analysis demonstrates that US media sources heavily focus on an individual framing of obesity, which may be informing public perceptions of obesity. By highlighting differences in obesity media portrayal, this study could inform research to understand why particular states represent outliers and how this may affect obesity policy making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1351-1357
Number of pages7
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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