Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Darren Powell & Michael Gard, The governmentality of childhood obesity: Coca-Cola, public health and primary schools, Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, Published online: 14 Apr 2014


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’.


childhood obesity,
health education,
primary schools

DOI: 10.1080/01596306.2014.905045

One thought on “The governmentality of childhood obesity: Coca-Cola, public health and primary schools (2014)

  1. Latia says:

    A relevant study that was carried lately at the Department of Pediatrics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver found that defining obese children would be more accurate if we use weight-for-age> 95th percentile over the BMI)-for-age> 95% percentile. And that would prevent unecessary interventions from Pediatrics. The study is published here

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