I had to laugh after reading a 55-page research report issued last week by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The study, called Food for Thought: Television Food Advertising to Children in the United States, prompted headlines across the country ranging from Kids Gorge on Junk Food Ads, to Kids Besieged by Food Ads. Quoted in these stories were the usual suspects of food police and activists and, frankly, all the coverage was a yawn.
While the Kaiser Family Foundation study examined the overwhelming amount of TV children watched per day and the number of food ads they saw daily, and newspaper reports screamed about marketing’s detrimental effects on childhood obesity, no one addressed a critically serious problem underlying the epidemic: effective ways to motivate kids to become active vs. leading a sedentary lifestyle.
Clearly, it’s easy for consumer advocates and policy makers to point fingers and lay blame as opposed to asking their constituents to take responsibility for their own health. That takes effort. And it surely doesn’t win votes. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) told a forum held to discuss the Foundation study that the food industry must voluntarily shift marketing campaigns away from unhealthy foods for kids or face the prospect of government imposed limits on advertising.
Can we be realistic for a moment? Will candy ads touting a fitness message really solve the problem? In theory, that sounds lovely, but kids get information from innumerable sources and, as long as we ignore the basics of behavior modification, these block-and-tackle attempts to solve the obesity crisis will never be effective.