What is framing

Framing an issue effectively means doing things a little differently to standard awareness raising or campaigning.

To frame an issue we need to:

  1. Know what we’re communicating into by understanding how people think and feel about this issue.
  2. Make deliberate choices when presenting information: what to emphasise, what to explain and what to leave unsaid.
  3. Trigger certain ways of thinking and bypass others – it’s very hard to argue against a feeling or belief once it’s activated.
  4. Show why it matters by aligning solutions with people’s ideals of what’s desirable and good.
  5. Show that change is possible, not that problems are huge and challenging.
  6. Give your audience ways to think differently instead of meeting them where they are.

Why we need it

People often make assumptions that make it harder to understand how childhood obesity happens, and how it can be ended.


  • Self-makingness: the idea that childhood obesity happens because parents make bad decisions and lack willpower – and is a sign of personal failure

  • Othering: the belief that childhood obesity happens to other people, in other places

  • Education as the only answer: people think that parents and teenagers need to be educated to make better health choices

  • Fatalism: obesity is seen as a crisis of modern life and an impending threat to our NHS

Here’s what the British public thinks about childhood obesity:

Read more about our research methodology and findings here

Key communication principles

  1. Childhood obesity is a serious and growing crisis in our country – it must be tackled.

    We must put our children’s health first – and act now to improve child health and wellbeing.

  2. Children living in this area are twice as likely to be obese.

    Every child deserves the opportunity to be healthy, no matter where they live.

  3. Caregivers and parents need to start making healthy choices for their children.

    Families are up against a flood of unhealthy food; pouring out from high streets, supermarket shelves, and our school canteens. We need to close the floodgates.

  4. Pester power is a genuine problem for busy parents. Children are drawn to sweets and it’s hard for parents to keep making healthy choices for their kids.

    With junk food in the spotlight – through TV ads and online content – it’s no wonder unhealthy foods play a starring role in children’s minds.

  5. I really struggle to keep my children fit and active. Every holiday the kids are sat in front of their screens – but I don’t know where else they could go.

    In my area, the healthy options just aren’t there. Our local playground was sold off a few years ago, we don’t have public spaces or a park, and the roads are dangerous. There’s nowhere for my – or anyone’s – kids to explore and play safely outside.

  6. In 2017/18, 9.5% of children aged 4-5 years were found to be obese, while one in five (20.1%) of those in Year 6 were obese. The prevalence of obesity in both age groups rose from 2016/17.

    We need to improve children’s health and wellbeing. An average of six ten year olds in a classroom of 30 is categorised as obese. We all need to ensure that our neighbourhoods provide affordable, healthy food options and places where children can run and play.

  7. This is a national crisis. Soaring rates of obesity, a major risk factor for many serious health problems like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer could potentially bankrupt our NHS.

    We must put our children’s health first – and act now to stem the tide of unhealthy food that’s flooding our streets, schools and shops. Childhood obesity has become a national emergency – but one that, as a society, we can tackle.

  8. Children’s health is all-important. We need to make sure that all young people have opportunities to be healthy, no matter where they live. This means secure access to healthy food, and safe places to grow, explore and play. This means stemming the tide of unhealthy food, in our schools and in our high streets. This means putting our children’s health first.

When talking about childhood obesity

Avoid Do

Leading with childhood obesity

Start with children’s health and how we can and must improve it

Talking about the costs of obesity – or the strain obesity places on public resources like the NHS

Remind people that we should meet all children’s needs, no matter where they live

Reinforcing the belief that parents are to blame for children’s ill health

Explain how what surrounds us shapes our opportunities to be healthy, using the rivers metaphor

Normalising the idea that children naturally prefer unhealthy food

Explain how tastes are engineered through advertising, using the stage metaphor

Leading with complicated statistics or data

Selecting and properly explaining data

Focusing solely on the scale of the childhood obesity crisis

Show how change is not only necessary but possible and within our reach

Focusing on individual-level solutions, like cooking lessons or joining a gym

Tell a positive, consistent story about the changes to our surroundings that can improve all children’s health