Schools, Corporations, and the War on Childhood Obesity: How Corporate Philanthropy Shapes Public Health and Education, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Schools, Corporations, and the War on Childhood Obesity

How Corporate Philanthropy Shapes Public Health and Education, 1st Edition

By Darren Powell


208 pages

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pub: 2019-12-19
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Challenging the idea that the corporate ‘war’ against childhood obesity is normal, necessary, or harmless, this book exposes healthy lifestyles education as a form of mis-education that shapes how students learn about health, corporations and consumption. Drawing on ethnographic research and studies from across the globe, this book explores how corporations fund, devise and implement various programmes in schools as ‘part of the solution’ to childhood obesity.

Including perspectives from children, teachers, school leaders and both public and private external providers on how children’s health and ‘healthy consumption’ is understood and experienced, this book is divided into eight accessible chapters which include:

  • Schooling the childhood obesity ‘crisis’;
  • The corporate ‘gift’ of healthy lifestyles;
  • ‘Coming together’ to solve obesity;
  • Learning about health, fatness and ‘good’ choices; and
  • Shaping the (un)healthy child-consumer

Schools, Corporations, and the War on Childhood Obesity is the perfect resource for postgraduate students and academics working in the public health or education field, or those taking courses on the sociology of education, health and physical education, curriculum, pedagogy, ethnography, or critical theory, who are looking to gain an insight into the current situation surrounding obesity and health in corporations and schools.


There are many organisations and actors who purport to be taking action for children and healthy lifestyles but who on closer examination turn out to be part of the problem as much as any solution. In Schools, Corporations and the War on Childhood Obesity, Darren Powell draws on research and scholarship to tenaciously address that most crucial of questions: whose interests are being served? This will be an uncomfortable book for many who work in this area, but it is a compelling wakeup call for our times.

Professor Martin Thrupp, School of Education, University of Waikato, New Zealand

Dr Powell has written a powerful and urgent book that traces the way modern schools manage or mis-managed their entangles with corporations, government, charities and the like. I particularly found his work with school students moving. Sometimes, students will tell you the most interesting, astounding and critical interpretation of what going on education today. Dr Powell also mixes his ethnographic, analysis and literary skills to produce a thoughtful, patient and, in the end, crucial book.

Associate Professor Michael Gard (author of The End of the Obesity Epidemic), School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, University of Queensland, Australia

This book makes a unique and invaluable contribution to this body of work through its comprehensive ‘disentangling’ of the activities of corporations and selling so called ‘solutions’ to the ‘obesity epidemic’. Filled with rich ethnographic data, this volume provides a very readable and convincing account that needs to be read by all parents and teachers.

Emeritus Professor Jan Wright, School of Education, University of Wollongong, Australia

Darren Powell shows through evidence from his own ethnographic research in schools the worrying trends and increasingly blurred lines between education, entertainment and advertising. This excellent book is a must read for all teachers (especially health and physical education teachers) and school administrators who are looking to unscramble and resist the corporate pedagogies that are reshaping primary school education – and children..

Emeritus Professor Richard Tinning, School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, University of Queensland, Australia

Table of Contents


Chapter One: Corporations and the ‘war on childhood obesity’

Chapter Two: Schooling the childhood obesity ‘crisis’

Chapter Three: The corporate ‘gift’ of healthy lifestyles

Chapter Four: ‘Coming together’ to solve obesity

Chapter Five: The new ‘experts’ in children’s health and education

Chapter Six: Learning about health, fatness, and ‘good’ choices

Chapter Seven: Shaping the (un)healthy child-consumer

Chapter Eight: Conclusions

Methodological appendix: A critical ethnography


About the Author

Darren Powell is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Curriculum and Pedagogy in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

About the Series

Critical Studies in Health and Education

Critical Studies in Health and Education provides a platform for established and emerging scholars to present research and theory on the intersections between health and education.

This series welcomes edited and authored texts underpinned by sociological, critical and political approaches to health-related issues in education. These might include but are not limited to:

  • Critical health studies;
  • Health education curriculum, teaching, pedagogies and assessment;
  • Health and sustainability education;
  • The politics of health in schools;
  • The body, health and education;
  • Digital health pedagogies;
  • Critical approaches to contexts such as: sexuality education, mental health education, drug and alcohol education, food and nutrition;
  • Social and emotional learning and personal development;
  • Critical and youth-centred approaches to: health promotion in universities, schools and early childhood contexts, and public health pedagogies;
  • Critical analyses of health education in the work place;
  • Critical, feminist and postcolonial approaches to health education and wellbeing.

This book series invites books offering discussion and debate about the practice of health education and the development of solutions to the new ethical, practical, political and philosophical questions that are emerging.

To discuss a proposed submission, please contact Katie Fitzpatrick (, Deana Leahy (, Jan Wright ( or Michael Gard (

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