Fast Food Restaurants Marketing Strategies Effects on Childhood and Adolescent Obesity

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Obesity has become an increasing problem since the 1970s - 1980s. Every person in the United States – men and women, young and old, white or back – has become exposed to the influences of obesity. The big concern is that children and young adults are beginning to follow in the footsteps of “big” role models of their time. According to the American Obesity Association, 127 million Americans are overweight, 60 million are obese and 9 million are considered “severely obese”– this is only for adults. Currently, an estimated 17.6 million children under age 5 are said to be overweight (Spurlock, 2005, p. 66). The New Hampshire Third Grade Healthy Smiles – Healthy Growth Survey was conducted in 2008-2009; collected the heights and weights to gather a baseline data and plan related interventions. In all, 81 randomly selected New Hampshire public schools participated in the survey – 3,151 third grade students. The survey found that 34 percent were overweight or obese (Childhood Obesity in New Hampshire 2008-2009, 2010, para. 1).

Obesity can have a lot of possible causes: a combination of excessive food energy intake and a lack of physical exercise is a common explanation for most cases along with an individual’s genetics, medical reasons or illness. Children are slowly creeping up the obesity ladder due to the lack of exercising and playing of video games on bright Saturday mornings. As of July 2011, 20 percent of children and adolescents ages 2-19 are obese. In 2010, no state had a prevalence of obesity less than 10 percent (Overweight and Obesity, 2011). Increasing rates of obesity are felt to be due to an easily accessible and palatable, or pleasant to taste, diet being able to rely on cars and other motorized means of transportation. This epidemic affects both young boys and girls of all ages, races, and ethnic groups. As Morgan Spurlock and Susan Okie – author of Fed Up! – say in their own words – no group is spared.

The obesity problem in America has become difficult to control with all of the food advertisements that constantly show during programs. Around 1950, only 2 percent of American homes spent their days watching television and being exposed to food advertising; by the early 1990’s, 98 percent homes owned a television and 60 percent of them had cable (Chou, Rashad, & Grossman, 2008). Today, 250 million hours have been watched annually by Americans – so much energy that could have been put to use. For children, 1,680 minutes per week is the average for an average child that watched television A total of 20,000 commercials – a typical commercial is measured out to be 30 seconds – are seen in a year by an average child making it difficult for children to resist their meals (TV Consumption in Americans Statistic, 2011, para 6).

Obesity in children and adolescents is associated with a number of health risks including high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol levels, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, sleep disturbances, orthopedic problems, and social and psychological problems, such as discrimination and poor self-esteem (School Health Guidelines to Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity, 2011). Physical and mental problems like these are long term consequences that could and most likely will be affecting them into adulthood – eating fast food excessively will start children and adolescents out on a road of struggle that is not an easy road to change half way in. Because of these health problems, childhood obesity is responsible for over 300,000 deaths each year. The annual cost of childhood obesity is around $100 billion. Healthier habits must be established early on. Children who are obese are more likely to become obese as adults. And the health risks continue. Numerous studies have shown that a child who is obese between the ages of 10 and 13 has an 80 percent chance of becoming an obese adult. But with proper nutrition, exercise and support, children can lose the weight and develop healthy habits...
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