Monday July 22, 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)

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Efforts to Contain Spread of Ebola Virus to Remain Elusive Unless Cycle of Violence is Broken

A senior World Health Organization official warns efforts to contain the spread of the deadly Ebola virus

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Ebola, Violence, WHO
Ebola workers enter a house to decontaminate the body of a woman suspected of dying from Ebola, before the vehicle of the health ministry Ebola response team was attacked in Beni, northeastern Congo Monday, June 24, 2019. VOA

A senior World Health Organization official warns efforts to contain the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo will remain elusive unless the vicious cycle of violence in the region is broken.  Latest WHO figures put the number of Ebola cases at 2284, including 1540 deaths and 637 survivors.

WHO Assistant Director-General for Emergency Response Ibrahima Soce Fall says there has been good progress in scaling up operations to contain the spread of the deadly ebola virus in conflict-ridden North Kivu and Ituri provinces.

Fall has just returned from a three-month stint in Butembo, the epicenter of the Ebola epidemic in DR Congo.  He says last week there were 79 new Ebola cases, 27 fewer than the previous week.  He says infections are continuing to fall in the major urban centers of Butembo and Katwa thanks to coverage in all 33 health areas.

At the same time, he tells VOA the operation is running into difficulty in the rural areas of Mabalako and Mandima, the new hot spots of the epidemic.

Ebola, Violence, WHO
Congolese security forces attend the scene after the vehicle of a health ministry Ebola response team was attacked in Beni, northeastern Congo Monday, June 24, 2019. VOA

“The access is more challenging.  In the same area, we have some villages where you have both ADF (Allied Democratic Forces) armed group coming from Uganda and some Mai Mai groups,” said Fall.  “So, access needs to be assessed on a daily basis to be able to move up to the intervention.  So, it is really important to take into account this very volatile situation.”

Eastern DRC has been politically unstable since 1998.   There are an estimated 4.5 million internally displaced people in the country.  The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says new displacements are occurring mainly in the eastern provinces of Ituri and North and South Kivu.  More than 100 armed groups reportedly are engaged in sporadic fighting in the region.

Fall says constant and skilled negotiations with the armed groups are needed to gain access to these volatile areas.

“The outbreak started there last year and spread to other areas,” Fall said. “So, it is important to break this vicious cycle to contain very quickly the situation in Mabalako and Mandima, where we have more than 55 percent of the cases coming from.”

Also Read- Americans Arrive in Canada Seeking Affordable Prices for Insulin

Fall says it will be exceedingly difficult to contain the virus if more money is not immediately forthcoming.   He says $98 million is needed to support the government-led response to defeat ebola.  To date, he says less than half that amount has been received. (VOA)