Clear Channel vs. Childhood Obesity

Another Zenith K731 radio

Here is the question of the hour: Given the criticism showered upon other other organizations that have tried to add their childhood obesity wisdom to the public discourse, will Clear Channel Media and Entertainment fare any better, now that it has stepped up to take a swing?

We’re talking about advertisements, set to run on all 850 Clear Channel stations for three months. The co-presenters of the campaign are the government’s “We Can!” program (the National Institutes of Health) and the Advertising Council. This pro bono effort is said to be worth $30 million, which will no doubt enhance the communications empire’s tax status.

Five different radio spots are in English, with two of them available in Spanish. They are each 30 seconds long, humorous, and aimed at adults, says Jane L. Levere, who wrote about this project for The New York Times. The public service commercials will reach, at an optimistic guess, more than 230 million listeners. At the end of each, people are invited to visit the website, iHeartRadio, and more specifically its “Healthy Habits” section. So we did.

The general headings on the home page include these:

Take Small Steps to Get Healthy
UR What You Eat
Get Moving as a Family
Smarter Shopping
Walk the Walk
Fun Family Recipes

Nothing in these headings suggests any awareness on the part of the sponsoring agencies that factors other than diet and exercise might be involved in preventing childhood obesity or curing it. So far, there is no mention of the possibility that many children have fallen prey to actual addiction to foods that are carefully engineered to be addictive.

But let’s not judge too quickly. We haven’t even heard the radio announcements yet. Clear Channel has obligingly made them available on this page. They are listed by title, along with remarks, if any.

“Cut the Sweets” — Quickly names 20 tips for families to try.
“Walk” — Gives 20 more tips.
“Carrot Igloo” — A mini-drama in which a mother locks her child in an igloo made of carrots, with a warning that there are better ways to convince a child into healthful eating habits.
“Parents Drive Home” — Another little playlet in which a father leaves his overweight child to walk home from Grandma’s house.
“How Ice Cream is Made” — The most alarming scenario of all, where an adult frightens a child to tears by saying ice cream is made from the insides of stuffed animals.

Yes, the ads have a light touch and an obviously humorous intent. More than likely, they will attract complaints anyway. The campaign repeatedly asserts that there are hundreds of small ways to move a family’s habits into a more healthful path.

This multiplicity has already drawn a mild rebuke from Dr. Marlene Schwartz, deputy director of Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, who feels that it might be too much of a good thing. The journalist quotes Dr. Schwartz thus:

Research has shown that people get overwhelmed when they are given too many options and sometimes choose to not act at all.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “An Anti-Obesity Campaign Takes to the Airwaves,” The New York Times, 05/01/12
Image by russbrady22 (Russ Brady), used under its Creative Commons license.

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