It is not new information that obesity and diabetes are health issues that have a huge impact on black and Hispanic communities. For years, researchers, public health officials, and medical experts have emphasized the damaging and lasting impact obesity can have on these communities, especially in children and adolescents.
Despite knowledge about the risks of obesity, the percentage of black and Hispanic teens suffering from obesity is increasing at disproportionate rates. Plus, to add insult to injury, recent research shows that fast food companies in America are not helping this dangerous situation. In fact, junk food brands target black and Hispanic youth with their advertising.
Every day, the report notes that a third of children and teens consume fast food, which means they also consume hundreds of extra empty calories from unhealthy foods and sugary drinks. Fast food consumption is even higher among black and Hispanic children and adolescents, who are already at high risk for health problems from obesity.
The solution, health experts agree, is to limit fast food consumption with children. However, research shows that fast food companies are marketing to black and Hispanic youth, putting an already at-risk population in an even more compromising position.
The Facts About Obesity in Black and Hispanic Youth
Obesity among young Americans is a definite problem. the CDC reports that based on 2017-2018 data, 14.4 million children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 have been diagnosed with obesity in the United States. This equates to a prevalence of 19.3%, and as shocking as these numbers may be, they are even worse for blacks and Hispanics. The prevalence was 25.6% in Hispanic children and 24.2% in non-Hispanic black children.
Likewise, according to the CDC, “non-Hispanic black adults (49.6%) had the highest age-adjusted prevalence obesity, followed by Hispanic adults (44.8%). The most worrying fact is that when it comes to teens the numbers are going in the wrong direction, with the percentage of obese teens increasing significantly.
Over the past decade, the percentage of black and Hispanic teens suffering from obesity has increased dramatically. The prevalence of obesity among non-Hispanic white teens has not changed, according to The data of the National Health and Nutrition Survey (NHANES). Research shows that for Mexican American teens suffering from obesity, the number fell from 22.3% to 30.6%, and severe obesity fell from 7.6% to 12.9%. For non-Hispanic black teens, obesity increased significantly from 21.1% to 28.2%.
The numbers are not good, the trends are in the wrong direction, and the health risks for today and tomorrow are significant. Obese children are much more likely to be obese in adulthood, and obesity puts people at a higher risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
While there are many potential causes of obesity, ranging from genetics to health education, it is very clear that disparities in access to healthy, affordable food and safe spaces to be physically assets are huge factors for the health of an individual.
Especially for blacks and Hispanics, access to nutritious food and the ability to afford it are big hurdles to overcome. This fact is a reality that fast food companies are aware of and appear to be exploiting.
An easy target?
One of the main draws of fast food, aside from the flavor factor, is that it is often marketed as a cheaper choice. It is positioned as a more affordable and more accessible option. Recent research shows that an alarming number of fast food and junk food ads circulating in the mainstream media target black and Hispanic youth.
The research, published by the Rudd Center at the University of Connecticut, showed that in 2019 alone, the fast food industry spent around $ 5 billion on advertising, primarily targeting black and Hispanic youth. “Billion.” That’s a lot of money to target populations of children and adolescents in vulnerable communities of color. the to study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “analyzed 2019 Nielsen data covering ad spend and TV ad exposure for 274 fast food restaurants, including detailed analyzes of the top 27 fast food advertisers with spend highest annual advertising and / or targeting TV advertising aimed at children, Hispanic and / or black consumers, ”according to the study’s authors.
The results are alarming to say the least. Data shows that “junk food accounted for 86% of advertising spend on shows targeting blacks and 82% of Spanish TV spending in 2017.” And more than that, the data didn’t just recognize efforts to target the black and Hispanic teenage population. This proved that the products offered to minority teens are in fact the most unhealthy items. “These companies aren’t just targeting black and Hispanic kids with their advertising, but they’re targeting them with the worst products,” said lead study author Jennifer Harris, of the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. University of Connecticut, as reported by CNN. And before you give these companies the benefit of the doubt, know that fast food companies don’t market fruits and vegetables or water. In fact, the money spent on health food advertising “is less than 3 percent for the general population and less than 1% for blacks and Hispanics, ”says Harris.
Targeted advertising is so obvious it’s almost hard to recognize, suggests Shiriki Kumanyika, study co-author and chair of the Council on Black Health at Drexel. “Marketing is so pervasive that it’s almost invisible,” she said. NBC News. “I’m not sure it’s really well known in black communities that this amount of money is being used to promote unhealthy products. Some companies spend a lot of money to be loved by these communities that they don’t even give public health organizations a chance. “
Can Fast Food Companies Help Fight Obesity?
Awareness and information are essential. The end goal of all of these studies is to suggest how fast food companies can be more responsible and more aware of the harm they do by targeting these populations.
Researchers at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, for example, are on a mission make “recommendations on concrete steps fast food restaurants can take to limit such marketing, such as extending voluntary industry self-regulation to restrict advertising of unhealthy food to children up to the age of 14 at least, stop ads for regular menu items on children’s television channels and end disproportionate marketing to Hispanic and black youth, ”a press release said.
Their study also wants to establish proposed actions at federal, state and even local level to help promote nutritional foods for children and adolescents, especially in communities at risk, but at all levels. to children as a tax deductible expense.
“If the industry truly values these consumers, companies will take responsibility for the advertising that promotes unhealthy diets and associated illnesses,” said Amélie Ramirez, director of Salud America !, which advocates for health equity. . “They can start by eliminating the marketing of unhealthy products to young people and Hispanic families.”