The governmentality of childhood obesity: Coca-Cola, public health and primary schools

Darren Powell, Charles Sturt University
Michael Gard, Southern Cross University

Document Type Article

Abstract

In this paper, we examine the emergence of what might seem an unexpected policy outcome – a large multinational corporation, frequently blamed for exacerbating childhood obesity, operating as an officially sanctioned driver of anti-obesity initiatives in primary schools across the globe. We draw on Foucault's notion of governmentality to examine the pedagogical work of two international programmes devised and funded by Coca-Cola. We demonstrate how these programmes work simultaneously as marketing campaigns and as governmental strategies to position children as responsible for their own health, conflate (ill)health with body weight and strategically employ the concept of energy balance. We argue that these programmes not only act to unite the interests of corporations, governments and schools, but also seek to use schools to reshape the very ideas of health and a ‘healthy life’. We conclude by considering two sets of ethical and political issues that come sharply as corporations like Coca-Cola continue to exploit the policy space created by the ‘obesity epidemic’.