amount of physical activity in which they engage. Food and beverage companies and marketers also are a source of valuable information about what is consumed. Victoria Rideout, president and founder of VJR Consulting, described research on children’s exposure to media and advertising and how it relates to obesity. Shu Wen Ng, research assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Gillings School of Global Public Health, discussed available data sources on the food supply in the United States. Robert Hornik, Wilbur Schramm professor of communication and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania Annenberg School for Communication, discussed the evaluation of large-scale public health communication and social marketing programs.
Presenter: Victoria Rideout
Two recent studies conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation1explored media influences on obesity in children, Rideout explained. One, Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8 to 18 Year-Olds, focused on the amount of time children spend with media (Rideout et al., 2010). Time spent with media has been linked to obesity because (1) media use is a largely sedentary activity, (2) it exposes children to food marketing, and (3) snacking during media use can contribute to weight gain. The other study, Food for Thought: Television Food Advertising to Children in the United States, explores children’s exposure to food and beverage advertising on television (Gantz et al., 2007). For both studies, the researchers used a randomly selected, nationally representative sample of school-aged children and adolescents.
There is a great deal of debate about the best way to measure media use, Rideout noted. The media study cited above (Rideout et al., 2010) did not draw on commercial data sources, although the Nielsen television ratings and other commercial sources can supply valuable information. Commercial data sources are expensive to use, Rideout noted, and some firms that collect data are unwilling to share with academic and public health researchers the data they make available to industry groups. Because commercial data collection focuses on television viewing and website traffic,
1The Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit foundation focused on health policy and communications that conducts its own research. For more information, see http://www.kff.org/ (accessed August 2011).