Friday, August 15, 2014

Food Marketing - A Driver of Childhood Obesity

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines overweight and obesity as an abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health. Based on the Body Mass Index (BMI), people with a BMI of greater than or equal to 25 are classified as overweight and those greater than or equal to 30 as obese.

According to data from the WHO, worldwide obesity has nearly doubled since 1980. Obesity is a leading risk for global deaths. Approximately 3.4 million adults die every year due to it while 44% suffer from diabetes, 23% from ischemic heart disease burden and between 7 to 41% of certain cancers, all attributable to obesity and overweight. 

As of 2012, more than 40 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese. Approximately 16 to 33% children and adolescents in the US are obese. Childhood obesity is often related to poor eating habits, overeating or binging, lack of exercise, family history of obesity, medical illnesses, certain medications, stress, family and peer problems, low self-esteem and depression. Obesity is a cause for concern because in a large number of cases, obesity results in further complications such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, breathing problems and sleep problems.

While all primary causes of obesity should be explored in-depth, an important reason for this rapid increase in childhood obesity is the fact that our nutritional environment has deteriorated to a large extent. People in general are overwhelmed with nutrient poor and high calorie foods. Most of these food items are easily accessible and are much cheaper than other healthier alternatives. According to Brownell & Horgen, "our obesogenic environment overwhelms people with nutrient-poor, calorie-dense foods, which are more accessible and less expensive than healthier, nutrient-dense choices, such as fruits and vegetables."

Marketing and advertising has been a major contributor in facilitating this bombardment. A large number of food-related advertisements are targeted toward youth and children.  Research shows that nearly $1.79 million was spent by companies in 2009 to promote food directly to children and teenagers.  Food advertising toward youth comprises mainly of low nutrient foods such as candy, soda, fast food and sugared cereal. While TV remains the primary medium for such advertising, there are now several other mediums which are easily accessible. These include Internet, radio, video games, cell phones, social media and word of mouth. 

According to Manhattan Physical Exams Center (2012), an average child views 12.8 food advertisements per day. That translates into 4700 ads a year. This is only on television. Cartoon characters such as Dora the Explorer, Disney Princesses, SpongeBob etc. are commonly used for in-store packaging and promotion of food products.

Fast-food restaurants are one of the biggest promoters of food that is poor in nutrition. McDonalds has thirteen different websites that exclusively target children and promote their Happy Meal. Fast food restaurants spent $393 million in 2009 on premiums including toys in kids' meals. They spent another $149 million to promote their products in schools. Companies like Krispy Kreme promote their donuts through fundraising campaigns. They sell their products on school grounds and even reward teachers with free or discounted products that comprise of pizza or candy. These rewards are then forwarded to children for good performance. 

Food advertising and marketing not only undermines parents' efforts to promote healthy eating habits in their children but also creates a misperception in the children's' minds when it comes to nutrition. Studies have already proven that the greater the exposure to televised food advertising, the greater is the likelihood that unhealthy food items begin to be judged as healthy and nutritious.

Overall, it is safe to conclude that while there are other factors that contribute to obesity, food marketing is one of the primary factors contributing to the increasing prevalence of obesity in our children. The Institute of Medicine is absolutely right when it says, "food and beverage marketing practices geared to children and youth are out of balance with healthy diets, and contribute to an environment that puts their health at risk." There is thus a definite need to control this aspect and address the issue of unethical and misleadi

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Veteran to receive guide dog with new charity campaign

Vision to Share campaign to provide up to $50,000 to raise, train and place an America's VetDogs guide dog with a visually impaired veteran.

Rancho Cordova, California, August 14, 2014 There are 1.5 million veterans in the United States whose daily lives are affected by vision issues that often originate from active duty service. For these veterans, a highly trained guide dog can empower them to lead active, independent lives. Today, not-for-profit VSP® Vision Care,
Veteran gets help from guide dog
the nation's leading vision care company, announced a partnership with
America's VetDogs®, a not-for-profit guide and service dog school that serves the needs of veterans with disabilities, to launch the Vision to Share campaign. Through the campaign, VSP will provide up to $50,000 to raise, train and place a guide dog with a veteran who is blind or has low vision.

People nationwide are encouraged to participate by visiting and sharing the Vision to Share video. Every time a person shares the video through Facebook, Twitter or email, VSP will make a donation toward the care and training of a guide dog.

"As a not-for-profit, VSP invests in tackling vision-related challenges around the globe, including those our veterans may face," said VSP Vision Care President Jim McGrann. "VSP has a deep commitment to supporting U.S. military members and veterans through our ongoing hiring efforts, employee-led veterans resource group and dedication to ensuring all have access to quality eye care and eyewear. The Vision to Share campaign is a natural extension of our efforts and provides an easy way for everyone to join our commitment to improve the life of a visually impaired veteran."

In addition to the online component of the Vision to Share campaign, VSP's mobile eye care clinics will travel to three U.S. cities and provide free eye care to veterans and families in need. The clinic will make stops in:
·         Dallas, Texas, on September 3
·         Sacramento, California, on World Sight Day, October 9
·         Washington, D.C., on Veterans Day, November 11

There will also be activities on-site, including guide dog trainers, who will discuss the training process; opportunities to meet a guide dog or guide dog in training; and veterans who have been successfully matched with a guide dog.

"America's VetDogs has placed more than 300 assistance dogs with veterans with disabilities at no cost to the veterans," said Wells Jones, CEO of America's VetDogs. "Campaigns such as Vision to Share are critical to our mission, and VSP has been a wonderful partner. Not only are we raising awareness about the struggles faced by veterans with low vision, but we're also inspiring the greater community to band together to improve the lives of these American heroes."

To date, through Eyes of Hope® charity programs, including VSP Mobile Eyes®, VSP Global® companies have invested nearly $167 million in free eye care and eyewear for close to 915,000 adults and children in need.
For more information about the VSP Vision to Share campaign, as well as to find eye health resources and more, visit
About VSP Global
VSP Global® unites industry-leading businesses to bring the highest quality eye care and eyewear products and services to help people see across the globe. VSP Global businesses include not-for-profit VSP® Vision Care, the largest vision care company with more than 71 million members and a network of 30,000 eye doctors in the U.S., Australia, United Kingdom, Canada and Ireland; Marchon® Eyewear Inc., one of the three largest global manufacturers, designers and distributors of quality fashion and technologically advanced eyewear and sunwear; Eyefinity®, the largest EHR and premier practice management software company for the eye care industry; VSP Optics Group, industry leaders in new lens technologies, production processes, service and logistics; and VSP Retail, delivering a memorable consumer experience through a variety of channels that meet the diverse needs of VSP customers. VSP Global businesses operate in 100 countries on six continents.

About America's VetDogs
America's VetDogs ( serves the needs of veterans with disabilities from all eras who have honorably served our country. VetDogs trains and places guide dogs with individuals who are blind; service dogs for those with other physical disabilities; and physical and occupational therapy dogs to work with service members in military and VA hospitals. It is accredited by Assistance Dogs International and the International Guide Dog Federation.
America's VetDogs is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization founded by the Guide Dog Foundation and relies on voluntary contributions to fund its mission. It costs over $50,000 to breed, raise, train, and place one assistance dog; however, there is never a charge to the individual.