THESIS: Obesity and poverty on press: epidemiology of a social question


How is the relation between poverty and obesity reported by the daily press in Brazil?

We discuss this question during the increasing visibility of epidemiological data about the growth of obesity amongst Brazilians, especially poor people. But this question is larger than it seems and important due to the universe of significations produced inside the journalistic, politic and health fields in Brazil.

Furthermore, this question incites the socioeconomic dispositifs of risk control. These dispositifs are expressed by individual practices of self control towards a larger emphasis tendency to a minimum State. However, we notice a relation between obesity and poverty: meaning a kind of “scarcity fat” of some nutritional components, access and knowledge of what is “healthy” or “unhealthy”. However, a scarcity of options in the circumstances that choosing is a sine qua non condition for the good work of these dynamics.

We assume that risk is internally imposed, by authorities creating discourses, policies and actions on health, exhorting people to evaluate their risks of becoming sick and to shift their behaviour accordingly.

The media interfaces the individual and him or herself, focusing on his or her self knowledge and self care. But now we see the poverty as well: a socioeconomic problem crossing the notion about risk control, based on personal responsibility, culpability and self management capacity.

The purpose of this work is to present some results of our research regarding the relationship between poverty and obesity in a Brazilian newspaper. Obesity/poverty was the criteria for 65 articles in the Brazilian newspaper “Folha de São Paulo”, from 1996 to 2005. We noticed in the material we analyzed, a remarkable political subject that questioned social policies, with health serving a setting for political disputes about the role of the State, at a time of certain political instances consolidating a neo liberal State in Brazil.

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