Wednesday February 20, 2019

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

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)

Next Story

WHO Makes Progress In Controlling Ebola In Congo

In addition, 2,600 health care workers in Uganda have been vaccinated.

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Health workers treat an unconfirmed Ebola patient inside a MSF (Doctors Without Borders)-supported Ebola Treatment Center (ETC) in Butembo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nov. 3, 2018. VOA

Six months after the outbreak of Ebola was declared in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu province, the World Health Organization is expressing cautious optimism that it is making headway in controlling the spread of the deadly virus.

Latest figures reported by the WHO show 752 cases of Ebola, including 465 deaths.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, says progress in containing the spread of the virus is due to a number of public health measures, including the training of health workers on infection prevention and control, closer engagement with communities, case investigation and contact tracing.

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Medical staff are sterilized before entering the isolation unit at a hospital in Bundibugyo, western Uganda, on Aug. 17, 2018, where there is one suspected case of Ebola. VOA

She says the use of a vaccine and promising new drugs have been a boon to these efforts.

“I feel optimistic,” Moeti said. “I am very clear that we need to continue this work. We need to make sure that in the places where we have made progress, we build on this progress and we do not go back. And, we are being very, very conscious of the fact that we need to invest to improve the preparedness both in the DRC areas that are highest at risk and, most importantly, in the surrounding countries that are at risk.”

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Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) workers talk to a worker at an isolation facility, prepared to receive suspected Ebola cases, at the Mbandaka General Hospital, in Mbandaka, Democratic Republic of Congo, May 20, 2018. VOA

The risk of the virus spreading to countries like Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan is very high because of the heavy cross-border traffic among the countries, Moeti said. However, she added, surveillance and preparedness activities have been enhanced on both sides of the border.

Also Read: WHO Calls for Accelerated Action To Eliminate Cervical Cancer

She says there is extensive monitoring at border crossings and improvements have been made in screening people for the virus. In addition, 2,600 health care workers in Uganda have been vaccinated. Moeti said a similar vaccination campaign began two days ago in South Sudan. (VOA)