Poll Shows Growing Concern About Role of Advertising in Child Obesity



Wall Street Journal
August 20, 2007

Most Americans believe parents can have the greatest impact in reducing childhood obesity, but schools, government and the food industry also have a role to play, a new poll shows.

More than eight in 10 U.S. adults see childhood obesity as a major problem, according to the new Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive poll, and the issue is a growing concern for parents of children ages 12 and under.

In fact, childhood obesity has been rising steadily over the past two decades, the National Center for Health Statistics says. A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found nearly 19% of children ages 6 to 11 were overweight as of 2004.

A majority of the 2,503 adults surveyed on Aug. 6-8 believe encouraging more physical activity is part of the solution: 94% said public schools should do more to promote regular exercise and 89% said limiting the use of computers, TV and video games will make children more physically active.

What's the proper role for the government in fighting childhood obesity? Should there be more regulations on advertising? Post your comments on the Health Blog1.However, most of those polled also feel more can be done to guide what children eat. For instance, 88% said public schools should do more to limit access to unhealthy foods, up from 83% in a 2005 poll, and 83% said parents should pay more attention to kids' eating habits.

A growing percentage (78%) think advertising directed to children is a major contributor to the rising rate of childhood obesity, up from 65% in 2006.

And while some of the nation's largest food and drinks companies have recently announced voluntary changes2 in the nutritional content of some products for children, as well as their marketing practices, 60% of those polled said government should play a more active role in regulating the food industry's marketing toward children.