Is TV marketing to blame for health problems of children today? The World Health Organization (WHO) thinks so. The United Nations’ (UN) health organization has recently called for a reduction of children’s exposure to the marketing of food products that exposes the young to risky non-communicable diseases caused by poor diet.
According to its recent findings, TV advertising is responsible for a large share of the marketing of unhealthy food products. Echoing the arguments of the iconoclast economist John Kenneth Galbraith on the power of advertising, advertisements of unhealthy food products have become so powerful that they influence children’s food preference, purchase requests and consumption patterns.
“Non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and diabetes, today represent a leading threat to human health and socio-economic development,” Ala Alwan, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Non-communicable Diseases and Mental Health, points out the link between poor health and economic development.
To address this problem, WHO member states endorsed a set of recommendations on the marketing of food and non-alcoholic beverages to children since May of last year. It also include calls for national and international actions to limit children’s exposure to TV advertisements that promote food products that have high saturated fat contents, trans-fatty acids, free sugars or salt. The recommendations also seek to reduce what it considers powerful marketing techniques that are primarily directed to children.
“Implementing these recommendations should be part of broad efforts to prevent unhealthy diets – a key risk factor for several noncommunicable diseases,” he said.
Alwan added that by implementing the recommendations, it will help countries strengthen their ability to foster and encourage healthy dietary choices for children and promote the maintenance of a healthy weight.
Currently, WHO states that there are 43 million pre-school children worldwide who are either obese or overweight. Scientific reviews and researches also point at TV advertising as the culprit exposing children to marketing spiels that promote non-core food products that are low in nutritional value.
Children consumption of food products with low nutritional value is considered as one of the main reasons of poor diet. A poor diet is one of the four common factors associated with the four main non-communicable diseases – cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and chronic lung cancer. These diseases are responsible for and constitute 60 percent of deaths worldwide, which is roughly equivalent to over 35 million people annually.
More than 9 million deaths are premature with most people dying under the age of 60. This is quite alarming considering the developments in science and technology. This could be prevented through low-cost measures at the world’s disposal, including stopping tobacco use, reducing excessive alcohol consumption, and promoting healthy diets as well as regularly engaging in physical activities.
Preparations are ongoing for the first UN General Assembly High-level Meeting on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable diseases, which will be held from 19 to 20 September in New York.