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Progress in Preventing Childhood Obesity: How Do We Measure Up?
facilitated by organizations such as Hollywood, Health, and Society, an organization based at the University of Southern California that focuses on linking television writers with health experts so that accurate health and nutrition information can be integrated into their television program scripts. This program was formed with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the NIH. The organization facilitated the incorporation of a storyline about diabetes into a popular television show on a major Hispanic network. An evaluation of the impact of this effort included tracking of the numbers of individuals who accessed diabetes information that was linked through the network’s website and promoted on the television show (Appendix H).
In 2004, the Ad Council, a private nonprofit organization that provides public service advertising, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), formed a public-private partnership, the Coalition for Healthy Children, to formulate research-based messages targeted to parents, children, and youth through the collective strength of the food, beverage, restaurant, and marketing industries; the media; nonprofit organizations; foundations; and government agencies. The coalition members work to provide consistent messages about physical activity, food choices, portion sizes, the balancing of food and physical activity, and parental role modeling across multiple media platforms. They also work to incorporate consistent messages into their internal communications programs as well as their advertising, packaging, websites, community-based programs, and marketing events (Ad Council, 2006b). In 2005, an evaluation of the coalition activities concluded that although consumer awareness is relatively high for healthy messages about diet and activities, the attitudes and behaviors of children and parents do not reflect this heightened awareness (Yankelovich, 2005). An evaluation is under way to assess how the effectiveness of the Ad Council’s obesity prevention messages compare with the effectiveness of other advertising and marketing messages of food and beverage companies within the advertising information environment (Berkeley Media Studies Group, 2005).
Spokescharacters are a particularly important marketing strategy used to reach young children. In 1963, the McDonald’s Corporation created Ronald McDonald as a spokescharacter who appealed to children, with the purpose of promoting the foods, beverages, and meals served and consumed at the QSR franchise (Enrico, 1999). In 2005, Ronald McDonald became the company’s spokesperson to advocate “balanced active lifestyles” (McDonald’s Corporation, 2005). His image was changed to emphasize physical activity and to introduce and promote some healthier options. Although a relatively recent development, publicly available information about the outcomes and impact of this change on children’s diets and physical activity behaviors would be useful.