Archive for the ‘epidemic’ Tag
Finally! The communications solution to our national obesity problem. Knowing what we do about the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of campaigns focused on smoking, seatbelts and sunscreens, what should we do to combat our country’s growing waistline and resulting health care costs?
First and foremost, we must name our enemy. No more talk about “there is no such thing as bad food.” There is. Twinkies. Ben and Jerry’s. Dr. Pepper. Popcorn chicken. Doritos. These are all foods with no redeeming health benefits or with drawbacks so huge that they outweigh those benefits. That’s not to say people can never eat these foods, but we all need to acknowledge that they are BAD for us, so we should treat them as the guilty pleasure that they are. Like reality TV.
Why must we do this? Why must we antagonize the nice people at Hostess and KFC? Because if we have learned anything from our political process, it is that being against something is a much more powerful motivator than being in favor of something. Most agree that it was the anti-gay marriage ballot initiatives that drove pro-Bush voters to the polls in key swing states and got him re-elected. There are many many other examples of this.
But, just as importantly, we need to simplify this process for people. In some instances, looking for healthy signs is enough (whole grain, fresh produce). But, the low-fat craze of the 90s taught us that we can be tricked into eating foods that are, on the whole, worse for us by appealing to our obsession with one factor. It is only a matter of time before Fritos starts marketing a whole grain variety.
How will we do this? With an expensive and creative communications campaign combined with some regulatory action.
The anti-smoking campaign worked because it was funded by massive amounts of tobacco settlement money and it was multi-pronged. It included on-the-box warnings, public health education, smoking-cessation programs, and regulations restricting people’s ability to smoke in public or places of employment.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s annual budget is three-quarters of a billion dollars, with the majority going to state and local law enforcement grants to support combined enforcement and advertising campaigns such as “Click-it or Ticket.”
The current efforts to promote sunscreen use are flailing, likely due to the fact that they rely on traditional marketing alone. In spite of the multi-million dollar industry promoting SPF, tanning beds remain minimally regulated, and Hollywood continues to glamourize the golden glow.
If we are to be successful in the fight against obesity, we need to consider the following:
-Tax junk food, sodas and sweets and use 100% of the proceeds to fund programs designed to make nutritious food more available, affordable and desirable; to fund physical education classes in schools; and to fund community-based solutions that show results.
-Eliminate sugar sodas and junk foods from schools.
-Put warning labels on junk food with clear indications of the recommended daily serving of that item.
-Develop a star-studded PSA campaign to promote healthier choices.
-Market home cooking to the masses.
If we are serious about fighting this epidemic–and our rising health care costs say we should be–it is time to take serious action. The kind of action that will mobilize thousands of food industry lobbyists in opposition. The kind of action that will cause Sarah Palin to rant about government intrusion into personal choices. The kind of action that will save lives.