November 2015 Newsletter

Rudd Center Recent Publications

Unhealthy Snack Food Advertising to Children Increased Despite Industry Pledges to Self-Regulate

Children saw substantially more television advertising for unhealthy snacks in the past five years, comparing 2014 to 2010, according to a new study, Snack FACTS, by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut. Children's and teen's exposure to TV ads for unhealthy snacks including cookies, chips, and fruit snacks increased in this period, despite companies' promises to market healthier products to children. Companies have developed some healthier snacks to meet updated national standards for snacks sold in schools, "Smart Snacks," but with the exception of yogurt, these healthier products were not advertised to children on TV or the internet, the new study shows. "Companies have recognized the business opportunity in marketing healthy snacks to children and teens in schools. Now they must also recognize that aggressive marketing of unhealthy snack foods to young people is not worth the cost to children's health," said Jennifer Harris, the lead author of the study and the Rudd Center's Director of Marketing Initiatives.

New Continuing Medical Education Course Addresses Weight Bias and Strategies to Improve Health Care Delivery for Patients with Overweight/Obesity

The Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity and the University of Connecticut School of Medicine have developed an online Continuing Medical Education Course (CME) for health care providers to improve the quality of care for patients with overweight and obesity, and help reduce weight stigmatization in clinical settings. The novel, free course can be completed online. "This course responds to increasing calls for training and education to improve obesity care and prevent negative stigma toward patients with obesity. For clinicians working with this patient population, the course equips them with strategies to improve provider-patient communication, make positive changes in the medical office environment, and increase awareness of personal biases that could unintentionally compromise patient care," said Rebecca Puhl, Deputy Director of the UConn Rudd Center, who led the course development.

Rudd Center in the News

Jennifer Harris, the Rudd Center's Director of Marketing Initiatives, was among the public health researchers and advocates criticizing an integrated-advertising deal between Pepsi and Fox for the hit TV show Empire, about a fictional family of hip-hop stars. "Soda consumption is going down overall, so it would make sense for (Pepsi) to really reinforce their product with their core users," Dr. Harris told The Wrap in a Nov. 25 article, "Critics Slam 'Empire-Pepsi Deal as a 'Public Health Tragedy.'" "The issue with that is that their product is hurting their core users. So it's probably good for their bottom line, but it's not good for the black community."

CNN carried a comprehensive piece entitled "Kids seeing more unhealthy snack ads" on our Snack FACTS report. The Nov. 2 article, accompanied by 10 photos of snack ads, quoted Dr. Harris on the targeting of black and Hispanic youth with ads for unhealthy snacks. "It's really an irresponsible practice ... given that these minority groups have higher rates of obesity, diabetes and weight-related conditions," Harris said. The CNN article was picked up by dozens of other media outlets around the country.

Coinciding with the Nov. 2 release of Snack FACTS at the American Public Health Association's annual meeting in Chicago, TV news segments and interviews with Dr. Harris were aired across the country, reaching millions of viewers in 49 markets. "Companies aren't helping parents who want to raise healthy kids and get their kids to enjoy the healthier snack foods, not the junk," she told KFXV in Harlingen, TX, for example.

UConn Today reported on Snack Facts in a Nov. 2 article. Companies participating in the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) have voluntarily pledged not to market unhealthy products like chips to children ages six to 12, and not to advertise to children under six at all. Despite these promises, children aged six to 11 saw 53 percent more TV ads in 2014 than 2010 for snack foods that companies pledged they would not advertise directly to children under 12.

Many other publications covered Snack FACTS, including JET magazine, the Latin Post, The Daily Meal and Food Dive. The study was still getting media attention two week after its release in a piece in Fusion.

UConn Today highlighted the Nov. 3 launch of the Continuing Medical Education (CME) Course for health care providers to help reduce weight stigmatization in clinical settings.

Timed to coincide with the CME's launch, Rudd Center Deputy Director Rebecca Puhl wrote an article for Medscape on the inadequate provision of obesity care by health care professionals. "Education and training are clearly warranted to equip health care professionals with the appropriate knowledge and tools to care for patients with obesity and to do so without reinforcing or communicating bias and stigma," Dr. Puhl said in the Nov. 3 piece, entitled: Obesity: Treatment Options and Communication Strategies.

PR Newswire reported Nov. 6 on a new survey released by the Rudd Center and the Obesity Action Coalition. The survey of more than 73,000 U.S. adults conducted from 2013 to 2015 showed that, "while there is public recognition that obesity-focused shaming and blaming is wrong, social acceptance of people affected by obesity has declined." Dr. Puhl noted, "This study highlights the need for societal-level efforts to broaden acceptance of people of diverse body sizes."

Dr. Puhl explained in a Nov. 11 article in The New York Times, "Is Fat Stigma Making Us Miserable?," that weight stigmatization and shaming, so common in our society, do not motivate people to lose weight. "Research shows that the opposite is true," Dr. Puhl said in the article. "Messages that shame, blame and stigmatize people about their weight have a negative impact and interfere with efforts to improve health."

A study co-authored by Tatiana Andreyeva, Rudd Center Director of Economic Initiatives, found that severe obesity cost the 50 states' Medicaid programs $8 billion a year, ranging from a low of $5 million in Wyoming to $1.3 billion in California. Published in the November edition of the journal Health Affairs, the study received media coverage Nov. 3 in Eureka Alert and Healthcare Dive.

What's Simmering With Our Friends 

Salud America! hosted a fantastically successful tweet chat on Tuesday, Nov. 10, focused on the findings of the Snack FACTS report. The Rudd Center @UConnRuddCenter and BMSG - Berkeley Media Studies Group - @BMSG were the co-hosts for "Marketing of Unhealthy Snacks to Youth."

After hearing from many parents, Applebee's has become the first family-dining restaurant chain to agree to remove soda from its kids' menus. The move was praised by the Center for Science in the Public Interest,, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, and the UConn Rudd Center, which together in 2014 launched a campaign to urge all restaurant chains to remove soda and other sugary drinks from their children's menus and meals. Applebee's follows fast-food chains McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's and Dairy Queen.

News to Chew On

The Washington Post
The controversial thing kids are being taught about McDonald's at school
The New York Times
University Returns $1 Million Grant to Coca-Cola
The Independent
Sugar: How we came to crave the food that nobody needs
HuffPost Healthy Living
These Women Were Fat-Shamed By Their Doctors – And it Almost Cost Them Their Lives