By Carla Plaza, Policy Analysis Center, NCLR
April is National Minority Health Month and that provides a a great opportunity to talk about obesity in our community. Although a recent study demonstrates that the nation is making progress in reducing the rate of obesity among preschool children, Latino children remain at greater risk of being overweight or obese than their Asian, Black, and White peers. Being overweight or obese as a child can lead to serious chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, cancer, and heart disease. NCLR remains committed to better understanding the various factors that contribute to poor health outcomes within the Hispanic community. Considering nearly two out of five Latino children between the ages of 2 and 19 are overweight or obese, we will continue to propose policy and program recommendations that improve the health of Latinos, especially children.
Because children living in poverty are at higher risk of being obese, NCLR is currently working on a project that teaches families how food assistance programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, make higher-quality, nutritious food more accessible. Preliminary findings demonstrate that Latinos understand the importance of healthy eating, what constitutes “good nutrition,” and what it means for their children. However, Latinos face numerous barriers in accessing these benefits and continue to face hurdles in obtaining affordable, healthier groceries.
We are also interested in how food and beverage advertising can reduce childhood obesity rates. There is considerable scientific evidence demonstrating that marketing and advertising to children has definitive effects on taste, preferences, and consumer behavior. For example, in 2005, the Institute of Medicine conducted a literature review examining the impact of food and beverage marketing on youth. The ensuing report held that marketing and advertising not only shape children’s direct spending on food and beverages but also indirectly influence their parents’ and family members’ purchasing decisions. Furthermore, it was identified that high-calorie and low-nutrient food and beverage products are predominantly advertised and marketed to youth.
Given that one in five children in the United States is Hispanic and that Hispanic children are the fastest-growing segment of the child population, it is important to understand how the advertising and marketing of products are influencing the health of our children. NCLR applauds the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, which has developed category-specific nutrition criteria for 10 different product types that governs the foods and beverages marketed to children under the age of 12. Eighteen companies participate in this initiative, many of which are NCLR’s corporate partners.
Recently, NCLR’s President and CEO, Janet Murguía, spoke at the Partnership for a Healthier America’s “Building a Healthier Future” Summit. During the summit’s opening session on equity, Murguía shared the disparities that exist for Latinos across the spectrum of life, including health, well-being, and education. She highlighted the importance of partnerships to seek solutions for reducing disparities, as well as working with local, trusted community members to educate the Latino community about healthy behaviors and choices. Ms. Murguía also commended First Lady Michelle Obama’s efforts drawing attention to food marketing and advertising.
We will keep you updated on our work to improve healthy eating, reduce obesity among Latino children, and explore the role of food marketing in influencing behavior.