Is opinion superior?

It is difficult to understand the fascination for the words “column” and “opinion” among Indian journalists, as compared to “stories” and “reports”.  Many think if you get an “opportunity” to write an opinion column, you have arrived as a journalist.

This perceived sense of superiority of “opinion” often makes media pass off good reporting and even data analysis as opinion. This piece in Mint, Why India’s sanitation crisis is a public health emergency, is a fairly good example of data journalism, which tries to corelate India’s widespread practice of open defecation with malnutrition. The accompanying map too is a fairly good, if not extraordinary, visualization.

But why the hell should it be labeled as opinion? Is it to give it that supposed importance or is there no other sections that the editors can fit it into?

In fact, data journalism is not as new or rare as we think it is in India. Stories like these are actually data journalism pieces. Just that many publications do not realize it.




India has the third highest obese population….

…but its mostly because of our large population; the obesity rate is still not very high.

India has the third highest obese population in the world, according to a study by an international consortium of researchers led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. Obesity is defined as having a BMI equal to or greater than 30.

But do not worry. Any absolute number would look big when it comes to India, because of India’s large population. In terms of percentage of obese people, India is almost at the bottom of the table, among large nations.

The study finds that more than 50% of the world’s 671 million obese live in 10 countries (ranked beginning with the countries with the most obese people): US, China, India, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Germany, Pakistan, and Indonesia. As you can see in the bar charts below, India has the lowest obesity rate among all of them as well as some other major countries that we have included, both among adults and children.


Children obesity

The study further finds that between 1980 and 2013, the prevalence of overweight/obese children and adolescents increased by nearly 50%. In 2013, more than 22% of girls and nearly 24% of boys living in developed countries were found to be overweight or obese. Rates are also on the rise among children and adolescents in the developing world, where nearly 13% of boys and more than 13% of girls are overweight or obese

While India’s good showing may be because of the ‘average’ effect (the country has a lot of malnourished children), it still ooks impressive as many of the other developing countries such as Egypt, South Africa and Sudan have higher obese people. Here is an infographic from the researchers.

Unfortunately, we have not found the story in any of the major Indian publication, at the time of writing this.