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Rudd Radar

Guidelines for Media Portrayals of Individuals Affected by Obesity Released Today

May 1, 2014

In collaboration with the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) and The Obesity Society (TOS), the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity released newly drafted guidelines aimed at educating media representatives on how to appropriately discuss the disease of obesity in the media.

According to Rudd Center research, the media is an especially pervasive source of stigmatization against people with obesity. Photographs and videos tend to portray people with obesity as headless (i.e. only from the shoulders down), from unflattering angles (e.g. with only their abdomens or lower bodies shown), and engaging in stereotypical behaviors (e.g. eating unhealthy foods or engaging in sedentary behavior). These images degrade and dehumanize people with obesity, while spreading false assumptions and oversimplifying the complex issue of obesity.

The newly released guidelines focus on areas of journalistic reporting such as conducting balanced coverage of obesity, using People-First Language to describe individuals with obesity, selecting appropriate imagery, and avoiding weight-based stereotypes.

“Considerable evidence shows that the media often reinforces negative weight-based stereotypes, perpetuating societal bias towards children and adults affected by obesity,” said Rebecca Puhl, Deputy Director of the Rudd Center.  “These new media guidelines offer multiple strategies to promote appropriate, non-stigmatizing reporting of obesity, and call upon media representatives to give careful consideration to language and images used in their reporting of obesity.”

In addition to the media guidelines, the Rudd Center offers a free media gallery to aid journalists, photo editors, bloggers, advertisers and other influencers in the creation and delivery of fair, unbiased coverage of obesity and weight-related topics on television, in print and online.