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Soda bans in the news: How is debate framed?

Lori Dorfman, DrPH, Berkeley Media Studies Group, 2140 Shattuck Ave. Suite 804, Berkeley, CA 94704 and Elena O. Lingas, MPH, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, 140 Warren Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720, 510-204-9700, lingas@uclink4.berkeley.edu.

Background: On December 12, 2001, the Oakland, CA Unified School District was the first in the nation to ban sodas sales on school campuses. After much debate, the Los Angeles Unified School District did the same. Other school districts across the nation are considering similar policies. This study examines how the California policies to ban sodas on school grounds were depicted in the news. Active news coverage of these policy changes offers an opportunity to systematically analyze and understand the successful debate on this public health issue, in the hopes that these lessons will apply elsewhere. Method: A quantitative and qualitative framing analysis of local and statewide California newspaper coverage of school soda bans in California, encompassing 12 months of coverage leading up to the policy change. Results: News coverage surrounding each of these two school district policy changes will likely contain frames both for and against the policies. The analysis will assess whether frames found in the wider public debate over obesity — the role of the social and built environment, the role of advertising and commercialism in children’s lives, the need for parental and personal responsibility, and the benefits of choice for consumers — will likely find complementary representation in the coverage of the soda bans in particular. Implications: As other school districts across the nation move toward soda bans, advocates should remember to tie the technical talk to values, so that the public health benefits of the policy are considered alongside monetary losses to the schools.

Learning Objectives: Learning Objectives