251838 African American Youth and Adult Reactions to Food Marketing Scenarios Presented within a Social Justice Framework

Tuesday, November 1, 2011: 1:10 PM

Deborah R. Young, PhD , Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
Brit I. Saksvig, PhD , Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Maryland School of Public Health, College Park, MD
Kathleen Zook, MSN , Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
Lori Carter-Edwards, PhD , Dept. of Community and Family Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC
Wendy S. Bibeau, MEd , Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
Suzanne M. Randolph, PhD , Center for Community Prevention and Treatment Research, The MayaTech Corporation, Silver Spring, MD
BACKGROUND: Some evidence suggests that attitudes about being targeted by marketers may be more favorable among African Americans than whites. Sensitization to marketing strategies may influence these attitudes. PURPOSE: To understand how African Americans' attitudes about targeted food and beverage marketing change after exposure to information on practices that influence availability and promotion of unhealthy foods and beverages. METHODS: After discussing marketing scenarios, focus group participants in Durham, NC and Prince Georges County, MD were each given a 10-page booklet describing how food marketers target products to African Americans. They were asked to read the booklet and return a week later. Sixty three of 67 initial adult and teen participants returned for the follow up discussion. RESULTS: Adults and teens were already aware of marketing strategies and expressed understanding of these strategies from both business owner and consumer perspectives. The booklet contents tended to reinforce and sharpen their pre-existing positive and negative perceptions, respectively, about business profitability and discriminatory practices. Both adults and teens expressed greater awareness that the “value” in “value meals” related to price rather than health. Some youth realized that marketing strategies that were good for business may not be good for the consumer. Some adults' views shifted from an emphasis on personal choice to considerations of community responsibility. CONCLUSIONS: Targeted marketing is endemic and viewed as such. Although sensitization to specific targeted marketing tactics does not necessarily shift pre-existing views, it can potentially help to elucidate tensions between business motivations and benefits and community health.

Learning Areas:
Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe how sensitization methodology can be used to deepen understanding of health issues. 2. Understand the opinions of African American adults and adolescents with respect to the food marketing environment. 3. Describe implications to explore how community mobilization of targeted food and beverage marketing can be achieved.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I was the lead investigator on this project.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.