Global Analysis Show Media Perceptions of Obesity Vary Widely Around The World

A look at the obesity debate through 9,000 news items from the US, UK, France and Asia Pacific

New York (September 17, 2004) – A first-ever analysis of news articles worldwide finds that obesity coverage in the media has soared 294 percent in the last five years. The comprehensive review of some 9,000 articles, “Obesity in the Public Eye,” by Echo Research, a leader in brand reputation and analysis, looked closely at news from the United States, United Kingdom, France and Asia Pacific to determine global media perceptions on this hot issue.

The report delves into the obesity debate to reveal what media focus on in their reporting including: which multi-national companies are highlighted in coverage, what’s the blame for the dramatic increase, who are the leading sources on the topic, and what are the most talked-about remedies for stemming the tide of obesity?

Highlights of Echo’s analysis of US media found that:

Coverage on obesity increased 35% from the period January 1999 to March 2004
Children are the leading center of concern in the obesity crisis
Among companies most mentioned in obesity articles, McDonald’s appeared in 31% of coverage, Coca-Cola 24%, Kraft Foods 16% and PepsiCo 15%
Sugar is pinpointed in 44% of all articles as a leading factor in weight gain, followed by soft drinks (23%), potato chips (20%) and carbohydrates (20%)
Educators and health professionals are leading the obesity debate, appearing as the number one source in all news articles

Education is mentioned in 56% of all articles as a way to stem the tide of obesity, followed by litigation mentioned in 25% of all articles

“As our research shows, anxieties and health concerns about obesity are growing fast,” said Marianne Eisenmann, managing director of Echo Research in North America. “Just this past July, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson declared obesity a disease. Additionally, our research shows that obesity is now firmly ranked alongside diabetes and cancer as a life threatening issue in today’s society the world over.”

“As the debate over obesity becomes more heated, leaders around the world will need to look at how global media perceptions on the issue can affect consumer attitude, influence public opinion and initiate change in corporate policies and government action,” said Eisenmann. “Media too will have to do some soul searching, making certain it’s providing responsible reporting as the public and private sectors prepare to tackle a very real and growing problem.”


The research was conducted by Echo Research as a collaborating partner with the International Business Leaders Forum, a non-profit organization supported by over 100 leading CEOs and companies from Europe, America, Middle East and Asia, and the Healthy Eating, Active Living Global Partnership, an international initiative that profiles good corporate health and wellness practices, and facilitates organizational partnerships designed to help tackle the growing epidemic of obesity related illnesses around the world. Echo analyzed some 9,000 news items from the US, UK, France and Asia Pacific supplied by Factiva and published between April 2003 and March 2004. Articles appeared in daily newspapers and business and consumer magazines.

Echo Research

David Monroe, Sue Preziotti Public Relations
Telephone: 646-495-3208

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