Novo Nordisk and framings of obesity for corporate goals

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School of Business | Master's thesis
Degree programme
International Design Business Management
This thesis critically examines the framings of obesity by Novo Nordisk to discover how the world's largest seller of diabetes and weight-loss drugs uses power to problematize and guide the way stakeholders, including doctors and patients, understand the debatable chronic disease. The study draws upon critical discourse analysis to reveal three major framings of obesity by NN. These framings claim that obesity is a disease, a burden to society, and an unmet medical demand among adults. It also explores NN's construction of people with obesity as victims and individuals with challenged brains, aligning with a related framework of biomedical responsibility instead of societal or individual responsibility while advancing its corporate goals. The study uncovers NN's strategic positioning as a medical authority advocating for pharmaceutical interventions over lifestyle changes, reflecting power dynamics in healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry. NN's discourses contribute to the medicalization of obesity, claiming it is a chronic illness that requires wider recognition and access to reimbursed medicine. This underscores the economic motivations behind NN's framing as pharmaceutical interventions are presented as cost-effective solutions to systemic and individual changes. Critically, the study raises questions about the consequences of medicalization, access to healthcare, and the perpetuation of body ideals. It calls for further research to explore the impact of NN's discourses on stigma, alternative framings of obesity, and the experiences of PWO. Additionally, it acknowledges the limitations of the study and the need for ongoing research to monitor evolving discourses and interventions in the obesity landscape. Ultimately, this thesis offers insights into the complexities of obesity discourse in the field of corporate communication and health policy, the influence of pharmaceutical companies, and the broader implications for public health and societal norms. It underscores the importance of critically interrogating dominant narratives and advocating for holistic approaches to address obesity and promote health equity.
Thesis advisor
Huopalainen, Astrid
medicalization, Novo Nordisk, Ozempic, obesity, GLP-1, medicine, corporate communication, discourse analysis
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