Children around the world are more and more often exposed to overweight and obesity. Statistics of obesity growth in very young children is of particular concern. According to various estimates, about 50 million children under five years old suffer from obesity.
The main cause of the global obesity epidemic is considered a modern lifestyle, which includes an increase in the consumption of foods rich in fat and sugar but low in nutrients, as well as sedentary lifestyle.
Growing body of evidence that namely the consumption of fast food and sugary soft drinks has a significant influence on the development of obesity and associated diseases, such as type 2 diabetes.
Aggressive marketing strategies of manufacturers help to popularize these potentially harmful foods and beverages.
The interrelation between the selling of foods and soft drinks for children and high growth of childhood obesity give cause for concern. Independent marketing studies have established that many food products and drinks for children are considered unhealthy, characterized by high energy value and does not contain enough nutrients.
Moreover, there are substantial evidences that unscrupulous marketing has an influence on the forming of children’s eating habits. The WHO has concluded that there is an interrelation between intensive marketing of fast food and the risk of obesity in children.
In general, children are exposed to such influence by means of television advertising. Transnational corporations use sophisticated marketing strategies to convince consumers that their products are an integral part of a child’s life.
A successful marketing plan may include the appearance of popular brands in movies and television programs intended for children. After a child buys or receives a free toy in a fast food restaurant, he often begins to collect them and subsequently to convince the parents that this restaurant is the best.
Brand loyalty is maintained and strengthened by means of marketing programs, financing sport and other activities in schools. Experienced marketers maximally use the Internet to cover most of the children’s living space.
Price of successful marketing plans
Food, the right to live in a healthy environment, lifestyle of children and especially those who are predisposed to obesity needs to be protected from the aggressive marketing. Prevalence of overweight and obesity in children continues to grow in almost all developing countries and in many developed countries.
The price of success of very profitable business of baby food becomes too obvious and frightening. In developed countries, 20-30% of children suffer from obesity or overweight. Such indicators have become habitual in the US, the UK and Australia.
Active promotion of delicious, but harmful food is observed in the developing countries of Latin America, Asia and Africa. In these countries, childhood obesity in all population strata increases.
The potential harm of aggressive marketing to society and economics of both developed and developing countries is very large. Children are increasingly diagnosed with obesity, type 2 diabetes and other disorders threatening the health and working capacity in the future.
Direct and indirect healthcare costs for the treatment of childhood obesity and adult obesity increase year by year. The cost of treatment, hospitalization, loss of working capacity, disability benefits threaten to the successful development of low- and middle-income countries.
Moreover, many other factors threaten the health of children suffering from overweight or obesity. They include a variety of psychosocial problems that are difficult to deal with (e.g., depression and social isolation).
Income and childhood obesity
Aggressive marketing of children’s food and beverages is an issue about which manufacturers and representatives of public health a lot and often argue. Business representatives protect their right to market their products freely. Children and their parents are considered as one of the elements of a profitable market.
Children and adolescents do not only spend their own money, but also affect the parental spending on food products and beverages. In marketing, this is called “children’s influence on consumer behavior of parents.” This marketing strategy becomes a powerful element of the global market with an annual turnover of billions of dollars.
Supporters of intensive marketing strategies shift the moral responsibility for the control of children’s nutrition entirely on the parents. Manufacturers do not want to limit the level of children’s advertising and do not recognize its influence on the formation of lifestyle.
Parents of many countries are increasingly asking for support in the formation of children’s eating habits. The state and society must bear responsibility for the children’s health. All concerned parties should contribute to creating the maximally safe environment for children.
In many countries, the marketing of unhealthy foods for children is openly discussed in the searching for effective strategies to combat childhood obesity. In some of them, advertising of such products is significantly restricted, but such measures are still not enough.
In some European countries, there is ban on the advertising of potentially hazardous food products for children under twelve years old. However, even these legal restrictions are often not respected. Broadcast of foreign programs by local TV allows bypassing these restrictions.
Not so long ago, there were restrictions on television advertising of food and beverages to children in the UK. Despite this, the imposed restrictions do not fully meet the demands of concerned groups to ban advertising of potentially dangerous products for children up to 9 p.m.
UN Convention on the Rights of Children for many years protects children from all forms of exploitation, including unscrupulous marketing. Other international organizations also protect the right of children to live in an environment without the influence of commercial pressure.
Coalitions of healthcare workers and consumer groups are increasingly created to ban all advertising of children’s food products. Instead of it, they offer to conduct propaganda of healthy eating by means of non-profit social marketing.
Each year, an increasing number of obese adults has led to the appearance of thousands of online pharmacies offering to buy weight loss pills at affordable price. Obese people who take diet pills and do not want their children do the same, should take care of this in advance.
In order to affect the struggle against this serious problem, it is necessary to control the unscrupulous marketing. Political intervention and large-scale public initiatives will allow organizing this process.