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

Schools, Corporations, and the War on Childhood Obesity
How Corporate Philanthropy Shapes Public Health and Education

ISBN 9780815355120
Published December 2, 2019 by Routledge
210 Pages

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Book Description

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.

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


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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.


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-manage 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