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Grant Details

Grant Number: 5R01CA087571-09 Interpret this number
Primary Investigator: Daynard, Richard
Organization: Northeastern University
Project Title: Influence of Personal Responsibility Rhetoric on Public Health Outcomes in Judici
Fiscal Year: 2013


Project Summary The investigators propose to examine the tobacco, fast food and sweetened beverage industries' use of personal responsibility rhetoric in legal and regulatory forums where many public health policies, both positive and negative, are created. As a response to legal context, the tobacco industry invokes personal responsibility rhetoric to focus attention away from its conduct and toward the individual in responding to the harm. When used as the basis of legislative and regulatory oversight, in judicial proceedings, or in other forums of law and policy formation, the concept of personal responsibility exploited rhetorically to obscure or shift attention from larger structural determinants - including culpable actors - that adversely affect the public's health. The investigators will identify the judicial, regulatory, legislative operational processes and related media coverage that have facilitated the use of personal responsibility rhetoric by the tobacco industry and those processes that have resisted such rhetoric in favor of analyses of structural determinants of health behaviors. The tobacco industry's personal responsibility rhetoric may also serve as a model for other commercial interests faced with the recognition that their products are harming the public's health. The investigators will examine rhetoric in the judicial, regulatory, legislative forums and related media by the fast food and sweetened beverage industries in their identified role in the obesity epidemic and compare their rhetoric with that deployed by the tobacco industry. Research will be oriented around nine key law and policy events, which will function as the investigators' theoretical samples. The theory is that the use of personal responsibility rhetoric shields from scrutiny in the judicial, regulatory and legislative forums commercially engineered determinants of health behavior. In addition to traditional law and policy research, the investigators rely on ethnographic content analysis to examine datasets containing internal industry tobacco documents, legal documents generated in the relevant legal forums, news media coverage, industry public relations documents and other documentation of conduct by the tobacco, fast food and sweetened beverage industries. The investigators will develop an initial coding scheme based on a preliminary literature reviews and examination of samples of text in the identified datasets. The investigators will test the coding on samples from the identified datasets. The study findings will be described in articles to be published in peer-reviewed publications and actively disseminated through participation in scholarly forums.