Given these preliminary, albeit positive results, and no other available evaluations of media campaigns, it is not possible at present to state that media campaigns can effectively increase physical activity in children aged 9 to 13 years.

Next Steps

The committee recognizes that there is limited evaluated experience in mass-media-centered interventions that address obesity prevention. Nonetheless, there is substantial experience in other related areas, along with the initial findings of positive evidence from some very recent obesity-focused efforts. In addition, the committee recognizes that most of its recommendations throughout the report require reaching the population at large, on a continuing basis, to generate popular support for policy changes and provide needed information to parents and youth about behaviors likely to reduce the risks of obesity. Only the mass media offer the possibility of reaching that sizeable and wide-ranging audience.

Thus the committee recommends that DHHS, in coordination with other federal departments and agencies and with input from independent experts, develop, implement, and rigorously evaluate a broad-based, long-term, national multimedia and public relations campaign focused on obesity prevention in children and youth. This campaign would vary in its focus as the nature of the problem changes, including components focused on changing eating and physical activity behaviors among children, youth, and their parents as well as on raising support among the general public for policy actions. The outcome of this effort should be greater awareness of childhood obesity, increased public support for policy actions, and behavior change among parents and youth.

The three areas of focus for the recommended media campaign would involve:

  • A continuing public relations or media advocacy effort designed to build a political constituency for addressing youth obesity, and for supporting specific policy changes on national, state, or local levels. This will include print and broadcast media press briefings and outreach, media support for other organizations focused on obesity issues, and efforts to encourage commercial media to incorporate obesity issues and positive role modeling in their programming.

  • A systematic and continuing campaign to provide parents with the types of information described in Chapter 8, including the importance of serving as role models and of establishing household policies and priorities regarding healthful eating and physical activity.

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