Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Do-nothing industry, TV marketing threaten diabetic kids

Time to connect media dots again.

My friend and colleague Jean Rystrom of Kaiser Permanente has alerted me to two media stories in the news this week. I haven’t seen them printed locally, so its off to the web to find them.

The first reports on a study that found that the more time a child with juvenile, or type 1, diabetes spends watching television, the more difficult it is for the child to control sugar intake and hence the disease itself.

Although the study didn't specifically gather evidence for it, part of the problem is the lack of physical activity resulting from sedentary television viewing. Another part is the advertising of sugary junk food on children’s TV.

And that brings us to the second story from Jean. This one reveals the hypocrisy of food companies who use TV to market junk food to kids. Two years ago, with considerable fanfare, the food industry announced it was cutting back on junk food TV advertising.

Not so, according to a recently released University of Arkansas study that found no appreciable reduction of such advertising since the proclamation.

In other words, once a scoundrel, always a scoundrel. The food folks are no different from their tobacco industry counterparts, and in some cases they are one in the same. For example, Altria, the former Philip Morris, makes Marlboro cigarettes, Oreo cookies and Jell-O.

Every angle of the problem of TV’s negative impact on our health needs to be addressed, but it seems to me that the least effective way to achieve change is to appeal to the conscience of an industry that demonstrably has no conscience.

No, we must change our own behavior and that of our children. When no one is watching its ads, the industry will be forced to change its ways.

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