Deterministic?: Newspaper Representations of Obesity and Genetics

T. Caulfield*, V. Alfonso, J. Shelley
Health Law Institute, University of Alberta, Canada

© 2009 Caulfield et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Faculty of Law and School of Public Health, Health Law Institute, Law Centre, University of Alberta, Canada; Tel: 780-492-8358; Fax: 780-492-9575; E-mail:


Media coverage of the role of genetics in obesity causation may influence health behaviours as well as public support for obesity prevention policies. This study examined the five highest circulating daily newspapers for articles addressing genetics and obesity between January 1, 1990 and June 14, 2007. Of 776 articles found, 109 were reviewed. Results indicate a shift away from a deterministic view of obesity towards a personal responsibility perspective over time. These findings may have implications for public policy.