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Public reaction to the UK government strategy on childhood obesity in England: A qualitative and quantitative summary of online reaction to media reports

Gregg, R and Patel, A and Patel, S and O'Connor, L (2017) Public reaction to the UK government strategy on childhood obesity in England: A qualitative and quantitative summary of online reaction to media reports. Health Policy, 121 (4). pp. 450-457. ISSN 0168-8510

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Abstract

© 2017 Elsevier B.V. This work aimed to summarise public real-time reaction to the publication of the UK government childhood obesity strategy by applying a novel research design method. We used a netnographic technique to carry out thematic analysis of user-generated comments to online newspaper articles related to the strategy. We examined likes/dislikes associated with comments as a proxy of agreement of the wider community with identified themes. To examine media influence on the comments we carried out thematic analysis of online media headlines published about the strategy, and compared these themes with themes identified from comments. Three newspaper articles and 1704 associated comments were included. Three parent themes were identified: paternalism/libertarianism, lobbyist influence and, anecdotal solutions. The comments were largely negative (94%). Commenters were split as to individual responsibilities and the role of the government, some felt that lobbyist influence had won out over the nation's health and others offered non-evidence based solutions. The ten most liked and disliked comments reflected themes identified in our main analysis. There was parity between themes that emerged from comments and from headlines. This summary of public reaction to the obesity strategy publication may aid translation of public views and receptiveness into practice and inform subsequent government action and policy. Furthermore, the process applied herein may provide a means of informal public engagement.

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