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Making schools and young people responsible: a critical analysis of Ireland's obesity strategy

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Worldwide reports of an obesity ‘epidemic’ prompted the Irish government to appoint a multidisciplinary Taskforce, whose report was published in May 2005. This paper critically analyses the report and its recommendations for reducing health risks among families, children and young people. Using a Foucauldian perspective, we question the report's individualizing focus and support for a strategy which responsibilises schools, families and young people and relies on individuals to do ‘the right thing’. Specifically, we examine the Taskforce recommendations for the education sector, and identify their dependence upon a discourse of governmentality, under categories of individualization, responsibilization and freedom of choice, participation and techniques for management of the self. We conclude that the report fails to address the multi-faceted and complex nature of obesity, and obscures the social, economic and material realities of the lives of pupils and schools.
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Keywords: education; governmentality; health; risk; youth

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Children's Research Centre, Trinity College, University of Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland and 2: Institute for Education Policy Research, Staffordshire University, Leek Road, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, UK

Publication date: May 1, 2008

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