MedicalResearch.com Interview with
Punam Ohri-Vachaspati, Ph.D.,R.D
Associate Professor, Nutrition
Arizona State University
School of Nutrition and Health Promotion
College of Health Solutions Phoenix, AZ 85004
Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Dr. Ohri-Vachaspati: Fast food is heavily marketed to kids — with the food industry spending over $700 million each year to market their products specifically to children and adolescents. About half of this money goes towards premiums like toys given away with kids meals. And marketing works –exposure to food marketing is associated with higher fast food consumption among children. Research has shown us that 2-18 year olds consume 13% of their total calories at fast food restaurants. Children who eat at fast food restaurants are likely to have poor diets and worse health outcomes.
In this study we wanted to examine which communities are more vulnerable to child-directed marketing on the interior and exterior of fast food restaurants. Over a three year period (2010, 2011, and 2012) we sampled nearly 7000 restaurants from a whole spectrum of communities across the US. Child-directed marketing measured inside fast food restaurants included indoor play area and display of kids’ meal toys, and on the exterior included advertisements with cartoon characters, advertisements with movie, TV or sports figures, and advertisements for kids’ meal toys among others.We found that more than a fifth of fast food restaurants used child-directed marketing on the inside or on the exterior of their premises. Middle-income communities, majority black communities and rural areas were disproportionately exposed to this type of child-directed marketing.
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Ohri-Vachaspati: Awareness that fast food marketing to children is prevalent and it can impact children’s diets. Also, that there is higher prevalence of such marketing in middle-income, rural, and majority black communities — communities that are already disproportionately affected by poor diets and health. As clinicians work with children and their parents, they may want to tailor their messages to help parents and children develop strategies to make healthy choices and to help them understand how food marketing can impact their decisions.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Ohri-Vachaspati: Future research should continue to track fast food marketing to children on the interior and exterior of fast food restaurants to monitor changes as marketing in other venues and media becomes more restricted as a result of various initiatives. Also, future research should examine the extent to which industry and public policy initiatives address child-directed marketing inside and on the exterior of restaurants.
Fast food marketing for children disproportionately affects certain communities
Punam Ohri-Vachaspati from Arizona State University; Zeynep Isgor, Leah Rimkus, Lisa M. Powell, and Frank J. Chaloupka from the Institute for Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago; and Dianne C. Barker from Barker Bi-Coastal Health Consultants, Inc. in Calabasas, California.