We have a common enemy and it’s called children obesity. Let us look at the latest statistics for children aged 6 to 11 years old who are overweight:
- non-Hispanic whites:16.9% of boys and 15.6% of girls
- non-Hispanic blacks: 17.2% of boys and 24.8%of girls
- Mexican Americans: 25.6% of boys and 16.6% of girls.
While the majority of the efforts fighting the obesity battle come from health advocacy groups, government agencies and not-for-profit organizations, it is great to know that corporate America also has a social conscience and has joined the battle. Two of these corporate initiatives are described below.
Obesity and advertising
The Council of Better Business Bureaus’ (BBB) Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative is fighting obesity at the consumer level. The initiative was launched by BBB way back in 2006 to advocate for more responsible advertising among food manufacturers. “The Initiative is aimed at shifting the mix of advertising messaging directed to children under 12 to encourage healthier dietary choices and healthy lifestyles.”
The terms of the initiative include
- at least 50% of ads targeting children under 13 should provide healthy messages and promote better dietary choices and lifestyles. This covers also interactive games and marketing strategies.
- no advertising of junk food and beverages in elementary schools.
The companies who have pledged (as of February 2009) to the initiative are:
- Burger King Corp.
- Cadbury Adams, USA, LLC
- Campbell Soup Company
- The Coca-Cola Company
- ConAgra Foods, Inc.
- The Dannon Company
- General Mills, Inc.
- The Hershey Company
- Kellogg Company
- Kraft Foods Inc.
- Mars, Inc.
- McDonald’s USA
- Nestlé USA
- PepsiCo, Inc.
- Unilever United States
The Initiative is based on a self-regulation program and participation is voluntary. However, once a company has publicly pledged its support for the initiative, it is subject to the standards set by the Initiative.
This is quite different from what is going on in the European Union where the EU Directive on Unfair Commercial Practices has set guidelines on advertising junk food for children, but the law is to be implemented independently in each member country.
Obesity and healthcare access
Health insurance companies are known to be mean when it comes to health benefit coverage and doctors’ reimbursements. But it seems that some insurers have a social conscience after all that prompted them to be part of the Alliance Healthcare Initiative, which is part of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. The initiative is a joint effort of the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation (founded by former US President Bill Clinton) and is basically an alliance among leading US insurance companies and other big corporations.
Here is what the initiative offers:
- comprehensive health benefits to children, including coverage for treatment and management of obesity
- reimbursements for doctors and dieticians for following up children with obesity problems
- educational campaigns about childhood obesity
Initially in its first year, the alliance will cover 1 million children all over the US. The coverage will be expanded to 25% of all overweight (about 6.2 million) children.
Some of the insurers who signed up for the initiative are
- Blue Cross
- Blue Shield of North Carolina
- Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
The battle against obesity -especially childhood obesity – is far from over but as long as we fight this together, we will surely win.