265522 What are they thinking? Parents' attitudes about food marketing to their children

Monday, October 29, 2012 : 2:59 PM - 3:11 PM

Jennifer L. Harris, PhD, MBA , Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD , Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Kelly D. Brownell, PhD , Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, CT
Introduction: Many in the public health community believe that changing the food marketing environment is critical to preventing poor diet and obesity among children; however, parent advocates have not expressed widespread concern about marketing practices targeting children. We present results of a 3-year survey to better understand parents' attitudes about food marketing to their children and support for related policies.

Methods: From 2009 to 2011, we surveyed 2,454 parents with children aged 2-17 years using a national online panel, including approximately 500 black, 500 Hispanic, and 950 low-income parents and 1,000 parents of overweight or obese children. Attitude measures included awareness of food marketing to children; perceived impact of marketing, media and the food environment; and support for a range of potential food policies. Differences between demographic groups and changes over time were assessed.

Results: Most parents had limited awareness of the amount and types of food marketing their children see. Yet they were moderately concerned about its impact on children's diets, and the obstacles they perceived to ensuring a healthy diet increased from 2009 to 2011. The majority supported a wide range of policies to improve the food environment, with significantly higher support among black and Hispanic parents and parents of overweight/obese children.

Discussion: This research demonstrates strong support among parents for policies that support their efforts to encourage their children to eat healthy. It also highlights common misperceptions about food marketing and the opportunity to inform parents and increase public pressure on food companies to change their practices.

Learning Areas:
Advocacy for health and health education
Diversity and culture
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Assess barriers and opportunities for parents to demand that food companies change their marketing practices; and 2. Demonstrate public support for policy options to reduce harmful food marketing to children.

Keywords: Child Health Promotion, Media

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I conducted the research and analyzed the results for this study. I have been conducting research on food marketing to children and adolescents for almost 10 years and my work has been published in many academic journals.
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.