About AHCJ: General News

New AHCJ guide has the skinny on obesity resources, coverage Date: 09/13/07

Sept. 7, 2007
Contact: Len Bruzzese, AHCJ executive director, 573-884-5606

Cover Covering Obesity

Table of Contents

Ch. 1: Gathering the numbers
Using NHANES - The gold standard
Measuring BMI for adults
Measuring BMI for children and teenagers
Using BRFSS - An alternate perspective
Tapping into international data

Ch. 2: Covering causes and treatments
How societal changes fostered obesity
Genes and other factors
Treatment with drugs
Evaluating weight-loss programs
Treatment through surgery

Ch. 3: Covering government policy
Look ahead: Farm bill 2007
Other government resources
State and local government angles

Ch. 4: Covering overweight kids
School wellness policies
School PE programs
Community and school interventions
Outside the schools

Ch. 5: Covering other frontiers
The food industry
Advocacy groups

Ch. 6: Covering emerging trends: Stories to follow


COLUMBIA, MO. - The Association of Health Care Journalists has released its latest slim guide, "Covering Obesity." The guide, published with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is one in a series intended to assist reporters planning projects to think through the issues, and at the same time, to serve reporters on deadline surf quickly to sources or data.

While obesity has grabbed headlines for several years now, there's no sign the story is waning.

Take just a few developments reported in recent weeks:

  • Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Human Nutrition forecast that 75 percent of U.S. adults and nearly 24 percent of children and adolescents will be overweight or obese by 2015 if current trends continue.

  • The Associated Press reported that while the U.S. federal government will spend more than $1 billion this year on nutrition education, an AP review of scientific studies examining 57 such programs found most of them failed to change the way kids eat.

  • A federal advisory panel rejected a promising new obesity drug, Rimonabant, citing concerns it causes neurological and psychiatric problems. Meanwhile, several news outlets reported robust sales of a new over-the-counter drug, Alli, despite warnings that it causes embarrassing side effects.

"Obesity coverage comprises an intricate stew of factors: genetics, personal lifestyles, economics, public policy and culture," said AHCJ board member Mary Chris Jaklevic, the lead editor. "The guide is designed to be useful to any reporter, including those who cover obesity on a regular basis and those who only occasionally touch the topic."

The guide's lead author is Marian Uhlman, who covered health-care issues for The Philadelphia Inquirer for nearly 20 years. In her coverage of the obesity epidemic, she wrote the Inquirer series, "It's Making Us Fat," which received the 2002 James Beard award for writing on consumer nutrition.

The guide has six chapters, focusing on gathering statistics, covering causes and treatments, following government policy, covering overweight kids, covering community and industry stories, and tracking emerging trends. Users will find numerous breakout boxes labeled Hot Tips, Story Starters and Web Gems.

The guide illustrates how to navigate key Web sites, provides an array of human and online sources for each topic and includes a glossary of obesity-related terms.

"Covering Obesity" is the second slim guide to be published with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The first guide, "Covering Hospitals: Using Tools on the Web," is available on the AHCJ Web site. Two more guides are already under way.

AHCJ plans to update the obesity guide periodically. Additions and changes will be posted online. AHCJ members are asked to help keep the guide updated by e-mailing AHCJ with significant research findings, changes in Web site addresses and content and other developments. Suggestions can be sent to slimguide@healthjournalism.org.