Research Research and Practice Innovations| Volume 113, ISSUE 1, P133-140, January 2013

Comparison of Child Obesity Prevention and Control Content in Mainstream and Spanish-Language US Parenting Magazines

Published:December 20, 2012DOI:


      Mass media coverage of child obesity is rising, paralleling the child obesity epidemic's growth, and there is evidence that parents seek parenting advice from media sources. Yet little to no research has examined the coverage of child obesity in parenting magazines or Spanish-language media. The purpose of this study was to use qualitative and quantitative content analysis methods to identify, quantify, and compare strategies for child obesity prevention and control presented in mainstream and Spanish-language US parenting magazines. Child obesity−related editorial content in 68 mainstream and 20 Spanish-language magazine issues published over 32 months was gathered. Magazine content was coded with a manual developed by refining themes from the sample and from an evidence-based child obesity prevention action plan. Seventy-three articles related to child obesity prevention and control were identified. Most focused on parental behavior change rather than environmental change, and only 3 in 10 articles referred to the social context in which parental behavior change takes place. Child obesity−focused articles were not given high prominence; only one in four articles in the entire sample referred to child obesity as a growing problem or epidemic. Key differences between genres reflect culturally important Latino themes, including family focus and changing health beliefs around child weight status. Given mass media's potential influence on parenting practices and public perceptions, nutrition communication professionals and registered dietitians need to work to reframe media coverage of childhood obesity as an environmental problem that requires broad-based policy solutions. Spanish-speaking media can be an ally in helping Latina women change cultural health beliefs around child weight status.


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      S. R. Kalin is director of Obesity Prevention and Wellness Programs, South End Community Health Center, Boston, MA; at the time of the study, she was an MS candidate, Nutrition and Health Promotion, Department of Nutrition, Simmons College, Boston, MA.


      T. T. Fung is a professor, Department of Nutrition, Simmons College, and an adjunct associate professor, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA.