May 2016 Newsletter
Rudd Center in the News
Our researchers appeared in news reports in May on topics ranging from Philadelphia's proposed sugary-drinks tax, to online data-mining of kids' interests and preferences through schools, to the need for more attention on weight-based bullying of children.
UConn Rudd Center Deputy Director Rebecca Puhl was quoted in a May 19 Connecticut Post article on kids in the state being bullied online and in school. Although every state has anti-bullying laws, "Our research and that of others shows that being teased about body weight is one of the most prevalent, if not the most prevalent, form of bullying in the school setting," Puhl told Hearst Connecticut Media. "The reality is, it's just not on the radar."
Dr. Puhl's multi-national study showing that weight-based bullying is viewed as the most common form of bullying in children was cited May 13 in a Kansas City Star article about a new children's book that addresses the issue.
The May 17 edition of The Washington Post carried a story headlined, "Schools are now ‘soft targets’ for companies to collect data and market to kids – report." The article described a report by the National Center for Education Policy at the University of Colorado, finding that "student privacy is increasingly being compromised by commercial entities that establish relationships with schools - often providing free technology - and then track students online and collect massive amounts of data about them. Then they tailor their advertising to keep the young people connected to them." Teens, according to the article, "are especially at risk because they are online more than young children both in and out of school, and also because developmentally they are particularly susceptible to targeted marketing." Our Center is cited in the article: "Jennifer Harris [Director of Marketing Initiatives] and her colleagues at the University of Connecticut's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity have argued, for example, that children need policy protections from unhealthy food marketing at least until the age of 14."
Dr. Harris appeared on a BBC World Service radio program on fast-food advertising. She debunked the notion that ads for one brand of junk food don't really increase overall sales in the category. "That isn't true, the research clearly shows that the marketing increases category sales, not just brand preferences," she said.
UConn Rudd Center Director Marlene Schwartz commented in The Philadelphia Inquirer May 9 about the wide attention the city's proposed sugary drink tax is receiving. "In my circles, people are talking about Philadelphia constantly," Schwartz said about Mayor Jim Kenney's 3-cents-per-ounce sugary drink tax proposal. "Some experts say a win for Kenney in Philadelphia could be a tipping point for enacting soda taxes in other major metropolitan areas," the article said. "But both sides are anxiously watching, particularly because of the unique pitch being used to sell the levy here." Instead of a public health measure, Kenney presents the sugary drink tax as a way to fund early childhood education.
A May 11 opinion piece for Philadelphia public radio's online news, "Philly's soda tax will benefit the poor, not punish them," cited our report showing that black and Hispanic children are targeted with more TV advertising for sugary drinks and fast food compared than white children.
What's Simmering With Our Friends
The Center for the Science in the Public Interest issued a report finding that Coca-Cola markets soda to children despite a pledge not to. The report, "Marketing Coke to Kids: Broken Pledges, Unhealthy Children," noted that some of its marketing practices are inconsistent with its pledges, including advertising on family-oriented TV shows and at theme parks, and using characters that appeal to children. "Whatever Coke may promise, its obvious goal is to implant its products deep into kid culture and its brand onto the developing brains of children," CSPI President Michael F. Jacobson, the author of the report, said in a statement.
American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown wrote a piece for Huffpost Healthy Living's The Blog calling on beverage companies to stop marketing sugary drinks to children. "Public health advocates are calling on soda makers to stop targeting our children and to stop targeting minorities. They are calling on celebrities to stop selling out to the industry and using their fame to peddle an unhealthy habit to their fans - and the legions of young people who follow and mimic their every move," Brown said. "I believe we are nearing a tipping point as more and more Americans are fed up, leaving the industry on the defensive and increasingly desperate to preserve market share."