Tuesday December 11, 2018

Hidden Digital Ads Push Children to Eat Fatty Food, warn Health Experts

Overweight and obese children are likely to stay obese into adulthood and more likely to develop chronic illnesses at a younger age

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According to the World Health Organization, children in Europe are the target of hidden digital advertising and marketing promoting fatty, sugary and salty foods that are damaging their health and adding to an obesity problem. VOA
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London, November 5, 2016: Children in Europe are bombarded with hidden digital advertising and marketing promoting fatty, sugary and salty foods that is damaging their health and adding to the region’s obesity problem, World Health Organization experts said on Friday.

The researchers called for policymakers to do more to protect children from junk food advertising messages on networking sites, games — known as “advergames” — and other social media.

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“Our governments have given the prevention of childhood obesity the highest political priority, [yet] we consistently find that children — our most vulnerable group — are exposed to countless numbers of hidden digital marketing techniques promoting foods high in fat, sugar and salt,” said Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO’s regional director for Europe.

Parents are unaware

She said in the absence of effective regulation of digital media in many countries, children are increasingly exposed to persuasive, individually tailored marketing techniques that parents may underestimate, or be unaware of.

“Often, parents do not see the same advertisements, nor do they observe the online activities of their children; many therefore underestimate the scale of the problem,” said the WHO.

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About two-thirds of children who are overweight before puberty will be overweight in early adulthood, and an estimated 25 percent of school-aged children in Europe are already overweight or obese, said the report.

Overweight and obese children are likely to stay obese into adulthood and more likely to develop chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer at a younger age.

Unhealthy foods promoted

Gauden Galea, a WHO Europe expert on chronic disease and health promotion, said allowing advertisers and the food industry to target children like this could have “huge health and economic consequences.”

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The WHO Europe report said that since there is little effective regulation or control over of digital marketing, children are often exposed to powerful and targeted online marketing via digital platforms that collect personal data.

Digital marketing can engage children in emotional, entertaining experiences and encourage them to share these experiences with their friends, it said, describing this as “a dubious cocktail when used to promote unhealthy foods.” (VOA)

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Road Traffic Accidents Cause 1.35 Mn Deaths Each Year: WHO

WHO noted that 48 middle- and high-income countries that have implemented strong road traffic laws and other safety measures have made progress in reducing road deaths.

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Traffic Crashes, Road Traffic
Two bikes were involved in an accident with a bus that crashed and turned on its roof near the town of Franschhoek, South Africa, March 7, 2015. VOA

The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for urgent action to put a brake on road traffic crashes that kill 1.35 million people every year, mostly in poor developing countries.

In Geneva, the U.N. agency launched its global status report on road safety 2018.

The report found road traffic injuries to be the leading killer of children and young people aged five to 29 years, with a death occurring every 24 seconds. The report said more than half of those killed are pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcycle riders and passengers.

Etienne Krug, head of the U.N. Agency’s Department on Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention, called these deaths a huge inequality issue.

Traffic Signals, Road Traffic
Traffic and congestion on roads is frequent in all cities of India. Wikimedia

“Low-income countries have one percent of the vehicles in the world and 13 percent of all the deaths; while high-income countries have 40 percent of all the vehicles,” Krug said. “So, that is 40 times more, but only seven percent of the deaths.That is half of the deaths with 40 times more vehicles.”

The report said death rates are highest in Africa and lowest in Europe. Some of the key risk factors include speeding, drinking and driving, and failure to use seat belts, motorcycle helmets and child restraints.

Krug said putting the right measures in place will save lives. These include the right legislation and enforcement, creating special lanes for cyclists and improving the quality of vehicles.

Road accidents in India
Road accidents in India. Pixabay

“It is not acceptable that vehicles are being sold in developing countries that look the same as the vehicles that we see here in Switzerland or the U.S. or anywhere else, but that are not,” Krug told VOA. “Because to make them cheaper, they have been stripped of all of their safety features, such as air bags or electronic stability control, etc.”

WHO noted that 48 middle- and high-income countries that have implemented strong road traffic laws and other safety measures have made progress in reducing road deaths.

Also Read: HIV Epidemic Spreading Rapidly in Pakistan: WHO

However, it said no such progress has been made in low-income countries where safety measures are lacking. (VOA)