1 1/2 Hoots for Coverage of Obesity in Philadelphia.

Daily News writer Catherine Lucey’s recent article on “Philly Flab” presented staggering statistics that may not be shocking to many, but are dire nonetheless.

“Philadelphia has the highest obesity rate of America’s 10 largest cities,” she wrote, citing Deputy Mayor for health and opportunity, Donald Schwarz (why Lucey didn’t capitalize his title in her article is a mystery).

Throughout the article Lucey put this statistic into perspective, tying adult obesity to health complications.  Moreover, it seems to be cyclical: Unhealthy adults raise unhealthy children, a big problem for an already overweight city.  The writer included this statistic as proof: “57 percent of children in the city are obese or overweight,” she writes.  Moreover, Lucey tied poor eating to poverty (although I didn’t like this term, per say) and lack of healthy, affordable eating options.

In her article, Lucey included good quotes from reputable sources, like the aforementioned Deputy Mayor for Health and Opportunity, as well as Gary Foster, director of Temple University’s Center for Obesity Research and Education.

After the set-up of statistics and facts about obesity, logically the following section was the “what now?” angle of the piece.  Although I appreciated Lucey’s inclusion of some recent health initiatives aimed at curbing obesity, she didn’t hone in enough on the local level.  She mentioned Michelle Obama’s efforts, followed by those of local nonprofit, The Food Trust.  But, is there nothing else going on around the city?  Hard to believe, and I wanted more in this section of the article.

Another thing I did not like about the article was that as Lucey cleverly tied this epidemic to soda consumption (and more importantly, the impending soda tax in Philadelphia), she included a vague, politically-fueled quote at the very END of the article.  Lucey wrote, “Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez agreed that obesity was a serious problem, but said that there were many ways to improve the situation.”

The set-up was followed by a quote from the Councilwoman, who said that health programs shouldn’t be linked to the budget.  This is definitely thought-provoking, yet shouldn’t be placed at the end.  I think this would have been better suited higher in the article or left for another piece entirely.

Overall I think that Lucey’s article, with a bit of tweeking, is still a good read.  The content is there, the sobering statistics, and with a little re-working of quotes and analysis this might just be a “hoot.”

– Julie Gargotta

WHYY Reporter Taunya English gets a HOOT this week for putting a name and face on a little covered aspect of the struggle with poverty.

Frankfort native Tianna Gaines has barely enough money to feed her children, let alone herself, but still battles a weight problem. Inconsistent eating patterns and cheap, low-quality food can contribute to obesity just as much as overeating, according to English.

In addition to Gaines, the story consults Mariana Chilton, a Drexel University nutrition expert. Chilton backs up the claims of Gaines.

“That kind of yo-yo diet can really do a number on the metabolism,” she says. “So that can actually cause a woman to gain more weight than one would normally expect.”

So it seems like there is something valid going on here. People who have fallen on hard times could probably tell stories like this all day on any given intricacy of daily life, but we don’t hear them. Poverty is a huge story that will never go away. We only seem to hear about the poor when violence is involved. The local media needs to do more of this kind of reporting so that experts can validate these claims. Maybe then, society will address the problems.

This story was written in conjunction with the opening of Penn’s “Witnesses to Hunger” photo exhibit. Only WHYY used the event to expose the related issues despite the presence of a pretty obvious and startling news angle.

– Brendan McNamara

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