Dietz also observed that, according to a recent survey conducted by the Rudd Center, almost as many people mistrusted government as mistrusted industry. An honest broker providing information about food and the media, supported by both industry and government, is needed, he said. Bipartisan language and framing will be essential given the divisiveness of current political discourse.
Finally, Dietz said that champions are needed to move the issue forward. Such champions, who could lead a grassroots initiative focused on children’s exposure to media, need to be found and motivated to act, he suggested.
Several observers pointed out that community mobilization is an essential part of a change movement. Initiatives such as MomsRising and Saludable work because they create platforms and the necessary infrastructure to connect people and empower communities, said Terry Huang, University of Nebraska Medical Center. Huang suggested that community mobilization requires integrated social marketing, not just a particular health message. According to Cheryl Healton, American Legacy Foundation, another step might be for foundations to counter the money that food companies give to community organizations for various purposes.
Elaine Kolish, Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), called attention to the continuing need for a large social marketing campaign that would help educate parents about healthy eating. She pointed out that yearly research shows that most consumers still do not know what calories are, much less how few or how many to eat. Filling an information gap will not solve the obesity crisis, but other efforts will be hampered unless this gap is addressed, Kolish noted.
Opinions differed on whether it is necessary to demonize companies, their products, or the tactics they use to sell those products. Healton, for example, argued that getting people emotionally involved can be an important motivator. She also said that in a social movement, people are pushing back against the status quo and forging a new path. Dietz added that the aggressive responses by the food and beverage industry to the recommendations of the federal Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children increased polarization around this issue, even though the recommendations were voluntary.
The question of the age at which children and youth no longer need to be protected from food marketing arose repeatedly during the workshop discussions. Today, industry self-regulation applies to children through