The road to obesity is paved with junk food advertising. If getting your kids to eat healthier seems like an uphill battle, the culprit may be your television. Recent findings revealed at this week’s annual National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing and Media indicate black and Latino youth are being disproportionately targeted with junk food ads.
The report, released by the Uconn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity (http://www.uconnruddcenter.org), found:
· Food companies were significantly more likely to direct their youth-targeted ads to African American and Latino audiences than to the general population: 71% of youth-targeted brands focused on African American and Latino communities compared with 47% of brands that advertised mostly to adults.
· Of the 13 top food brands advertised to African Americans, seven of them -- including Pop Tarts, Doritos and Skittles -- also directed these ads to children and teens.
· African American children and teens in the U.S. are more than twice as likely to see an advertisement for candy and soda on TV than their white counterparts. Healthier foods like yogurt are unlikely to appear on TV channels targeted to African American and Latino viewers
· Among American adults, 47.8% of African Americans are obese, compared with 42.5% of Latinos and 32.6% of whites, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
· The same company might be promoting unhealthy foods in the Hispanic community and promoting healthier foods in the general community
What can communities of colors do against the big advertising machines? How do we combat the deep-pocketed corporations pushing salt, sugar, grease and fat? Since kids are not likely to stop watching television or the Internet, more healthy food advertising is needed.
Study authors recommend that food companies stop advertising soda, candy and other nutritionally poor foods on TV to children under the age of 14, and that the practice of targeting younger people of color disproportionately be halted.
Like the negative, but powerful ads that show the ugly truth about nicotine addiction, kids need to be shown the less appealing side of junk food consumption. Public health agencies need to be given free advertising to educate families on the dangers of excessive junk food consumption.
Michelle Obama cannot do it all by herself. It will take the whole entire village: parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, business owners, celebrities, everybody.
Kids need to be shown right from wrong, they are not born automatically knowing what is healthy or not healthy. The powerful impact of visual media, coupled with the fact that junk food tastes so good, are formidable foes. But this is a fight that we must not lose.