The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently released its annual report, titled The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World. Among other findings, the report shows that childhood overweight and obesity are increasing in most regions, including in parts of sub-Saharan Africa.
Overweight and obesity are forms of malnutrition that can put children at risk of developing serious health problems, including type 2 diabetes, asthma and other respiratory problems, sleep disorders, and liver disease.
Reporting on overweight and obesity can be challenging. The science is easy to get wrong, and reporters must take into account many cultural messages about weight, health, and appearance.
On its website, the World Health Organization’s regional office for Africa offers a fact sheet as well as answers to questions about the causes, preventive strategies, and consequences of overweight and obesity (http://www.afro.who.int/health-topics/obesity ).
The Centre for Health Journalism at Rhodes University in South Africa recommends, among other actions, that journalists focus on the following when covering obesity and overweight:
- Linking obesity to the social determinants of health.
- Not using stigmatizing language and depersonalizing illustrations.
- Putting the science of obesity in its proper context.
The Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, a non-profit organization in the United States, published Guidelines for Media Portrayals of Individuals Affected by Obesity (http://www.uconnruddcenter.org/files/Pdfs/MediaGuidelines_PortrayalObese(1).pdf ), which includes guidelines on the following topics:
- avoiding stereotypes
- appropriate language and terminology
- balanced and accurate coverage
- appropriate images
The full FAO report can be found here: http://www.fao.org/3/a-I7695e.pdf