Aggressive Marketing of Unhealthy Foods and Products is the deliberate marketing of health diminishing products especially when these are targeted to specific populations differentiated by age, gender, racial/ethnic group, or any other factor.
Biased Marketing & Latino Health
Latino children and adults are subjected to aggressive and targeted marketing several times a day for unhealthy foods and products. This type of marketing comes in a variety of forms, including TV advertising, outdoor ads in neighborhoods, or even ads for junk food and junk drinks in schools. Aggressive marketing impacts a whole host of illnesses, from obesity and type II diabetes to cancers linked to tobacco use.
Before interning at Latino Coalition for a Healthy California (LCHC) the aspects of public health I had been exposed to were in health education, prevention, and intervention of sexual health and HIV/AIDS. What drew me to intern at LCHC was their commitment to advocacy and social justice to the Latino community who often face greater disparities across all aspects of health. As someone with a sincere interest in helping the Latino community, I had never considered how policies can have vast impacts on our community. When considering these two distinctive concepts together, I think about the concept of decolonizing our diet in an effort to mediate the adverse affects distinctive foods and sugary drinks have on our health.
As a U.S.-born Latino, I reflect on the lives of my family, community and interestingly, my ancestral history. I often consider how my life would have been, had my parents never immigrated to the U.S. What type of work would I be doing? How much education would I have received? And, what type of diet would I have? I then realize my diet would be very similar to that of the U.S. Mexico is facing a similar health crisis just as its northern neighbor due to trade agreements and a growing globalized world.
our ANCESTRAL diet
The saying goes: “La comida es medicina.” Meaning that it is imperative we reflect on our past if we wish to have healthier communities for the future. This means treating our food like medicine and as something sacred. Many in our community have personally witnessed the effects of the Standard American Diet on our bodies and on the health of our familia and our comunidad. Our community is in the midst of a health crisis, most notably with diabetes, but also with heart disease and the amputations of our bodies. In the context of social justice, it is becoming increasingly difficult to advocate for our community and our culture if we are literally being torn apart.
Looking into what my ancestors consumed before colonization, foods and beverages such as nopales, tunas, huitlacoche, atole, tesgüino and toloache, words I had never pronounced up until recently. I consider the wealth of knowledge our ancestors had and I have much to learn from the foods and beverages they consumed. I’ve learned consuming our ancestral foods not only keeps me connected to my culture and community, it can help prevent and treat the diseases that result from adopting the contemporary American Diet.
Now is the time to reclaim our cultural inheritance and wean our bodies from the fast foods and sugary drinks that frankly, are not native to our palates. In retrospect, something as simple as cooking frijoles de la olla should be seen as an act of resistance and revolutionizes the way in which we honor our ancestors and care for the generations to come.
In order to retrace our pasado, one can consider current and future policies in place to help us reach this goal. Policies that allocate funds to encourage low-income communities and Calfresh recipients to purchase and consume the fresh fruits, nuts, and vegetables our local farmers produce. These type of policies contribute to the acts of resistance I previously mentioned. I would of never considered how much power our community can truly have when you advocate for this type of non-traditional revolución in the community.
more about sugary drinks and our comunidad
Recently, I was able to attend a mock senate health committee hearing and witness first hand how bills are introduced, debated and sent to the governor for approval. The high school students who participated in the mock hearing debated a statewide policy known as the health promotion fee, which is a fee on sugary drinks (SSBs) which would generate revenue to address chronic disease in low-income, communities of color in California.
The consumption of SSBs has become a highly visible and controversial public health and public policy issue. SSBs are a major contributor to obesity, diabetes, dental disease and other related health problems. As the Latino population continues to be the fastest-growing and largest minority group in California, numbering 14.99 million in 2014; Latinos have now outnumbered the amount of Whites in the state. Therefore, it is no surprise that SSB companies have a special interest in the Latino population, as these SSBs have historically been targeted to members of nuestra comunidad.
For example, Latino youth are more exposed to the media, including beverage marketing, compared to their counterparts. Market research names Latinos as targets for non-alcoholic beverage companies. Latino youth are heavy consumers of digital, mobile and viral marketing media in which the food and beverage companies have taken advantage of by increasing spending on such media efforts by 50% from 2006 to 2009. One study found that TV viewing and soft drink consumption were correlated with obesity, and Latino students watched more TV each evening and drank more soft drinks each day than their non-Latino White or Asian peers.
Interestingly, even the placement of SSBs in stores can prompt their purchase. Placement of particular items at children’s eye level can prompt a children’s requests for particular and often times unhealthy foods and beverages where the majority of items offered at checkout include candy, chips, cookies, soda, and other sugary drinks. In one particular study where food company researchers interviewed shoppers, 45% said they had bought soda from checkout in the past six months. Most individuals who purchase candy or soda from checkout do so at least monthly and the purchases at checkout do not displace planned purchases; they add to them. And lastly, shoppers who buy candy and soda at checkout are often the same people who deliberately ignore those items in the aisles in the store where they are stocked.
While it is important to note the consumption of soda and other sugary drinks among young children in California is starting to decline, a new recent study demonstrated an alarming 8% spike among adolescents, the biggest consumers of these beverages. Latino children have increased their consumption of sugary drinks, such as soft drinks, sports drinks, fruit-flavored drinks, and flavored milk between 1991 and 2008. Furthermore, about 74% of Latinos have had a sugary drink by age 2. Approximately about 22% of Latino high school students have three or more sugary drinks a day. Children who consume more sugary drinks tend to have higher body weight and are at greater risk of diabetes and dental complications. And with the extra sugary drinks a day, the risk of becoming an obese adult jumps to 60%. Investing in P.E. programs at school, greater access to clean drinking water and healthier food options, as well as nutrition education among Latino kids can improve health outcomes.
Considering what these policies really mean for me and for my community, I attempt to conceptualize the problem and how I am affected by it personally. I often think about the iconic Cuban singer Celia Cruz and her song: ¡Azúcar! Envisioning how lively and joyful our communities can be, especially in the way we dance. However, in more recent years, I see the detrimental effects of SSBs on our communities and how our tenacity to have these marvelous movίdas (dance moves) slowly fade away from diabetes, heart disease and leg amputations.
mi pasado y futuro
When I think of how we can end this epidemic, I think about my extended family and our yearly trips to their native Jalisco, México. There I can remember the lush, green and majestic land my family lived on. There, my family would walk to la tiendita, and la plaza, among other places. I remember my grandfather would harvest corn from las milpas and bring caña de azúcar to the house for us to enjoy on some days. I can recall how sweet the sugar cane was and how bountiful the corn would flourish to then be turned into homemade tortillas. Our meals were often composed of fresh fruits, vegetables and legumes. When considering the past, present and future of our health, I look at these experiences and think about how policies that elevate and value our ancestral culture and diet can provide the necessary cultural and linguistic appropriate curriculum and interventions to “decolonize” our diets and our lifestyles. We know what is healthy for our community and we need to take back the aspects of our native customs and traditions that kept our people in predominantly good health for so long.
I look forward to continuing my work with LCHC to further conceptualize and integrate the policy efforts into my public health work. The knowledge and mentorship that I’ve acquired thus far at LCHC, will continue to mold me into the public health practitioner and social justice advocate I aspire to be.
1. Search Press Releases | UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. Healthpolicyucla.edu. 2016. Available at: http://healthpolicy.ucla.edu/newsroom/press-\releases/pages/details.aspx?NewsID=156. Accessed July 1, 2016.
2. Latino kids consume “above average” amount of sugary drinks. NBC Latino. 2013. Available at: http://nbclatino.com/2013/10/03/latino-kids- consume-above- average-amount- of-sugary- drinks/. Accessed July 1, 2016.
3. New Research, Videos, and Infographics Tackle Latino Childhood Obesity Issues | Salud America!. Salud-america.org. 2016. Available at: http://salud-america.org/research. Accessed July 5, 2016.
4. Bill Text – AB-1321 Nutrition Incentive Matching Grant Program. Leginfolegislature.ca.gov 2016. Available at: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160AB1321. Accessed July 22, 2016.
5. Bill Text – AB-2782 Healthy California Fund. Leginfolegislature.ca.gov 2016. Available at: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160AB2782. Accessed July 26, 2016.
6. Temptation at Checkout | Center for Science in the Public Interest. Cspinet.org. 2016. Available at: https://cspinet.org/temptation-checkout. Accessed July 26, 2016.
I can honestly and boldly say that before interning with Latino Coalition for a Healthy California (LCHC) I was naive to the issues that were affecting Latinos. I knew that Latinos faced obstacles when it came to adequate health care, poverty and immigration but I was not aware of the severity of these disparities. Last month, I was able to witness up close one of the many battles Latinos face: type 2 diabetes. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 2 Latinos will develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetime. When I heard that statistic I was left in awe. How is it that 43% of Latinos living in California have type 2 diabetes and 50% of them will develop it throughout their lifetime? I asked myself this question and discovered the answer as I emerged myself more and more into my internship.
As I got more involved with LCHC, I was able to learn about the social determinants of health and understand how they contribute to this alarming statistic. Latinos are at a disadvantage because many predominantly Latino communities do not have supermarkets with organic food and there are not enough safe parks to encourage physical activity. In addition, I also discovered there were almost twice as many soda advertisements in Spanish television channels compare to English television.
A lot of the work I have been doing with LCHC has been raising awareness of the type 2 diabetes epidemic in our state and in the Latino community. Since participating in outreach events I have noticed that many people do not know how unhealthy sugary beverages in reality are. Parents want the best for their children and would choose the best products if they knew the truth and had more information on the health impacts of the products they are marketed so aggressively. I do not blame them for not knowing all this information because who would question a label that is FDA approved that says made with 100% real fruit. Latinos are being misled to believe that sugary beverages have little to no sugar. A 16 oz. Coca Cola bottle has 16 teaspoons of sugar, SIXTEEN. The average adult should be only having a maximum of nine teaspoons a day. In comparison to soda, Capri Sun, a juice advertised to small children has four teaspoons of sugar in one pouch. The average child should be having five teaspoons A DAY. In my community, I see kids drinking two to three Capri Suns in one sitting.
When I look at the information that is at my disposal I can easily acknowledge two things: some people may not be aware of the severity of type 2 diabetes because they do not have the information at hand like I do; and secondly, the way resources and information are accessed in today’s society is the root problem contributing to the diabetes epidemic. Aside from Latinos, many other groups of people of color are strongly affected by type 2 diabetes. 39% of African Americans and Asian American, Pacific Islanders living in California have type 2 diabetes and 40.3% of American Indian and Alaskan Natives have it as well. Aside from race, more people living in low-income communities have higher rates of diabetes. Imperial County, which according to the US Census has an average household income of $41,772 a year, has a diabetes prevalence of 18%. In Imperial County Latinos make up 82.3% of their population. Now what does this mean? Considering 50% of Latinos will get diabetes throughout their lifetime, from those 82.3% Latinos living in Imperial, roughly 40% of them will be diagnosed with diabetes sometime in their lifetime. The social determinants that are contributing to these rates include food security, parks and recreational space, the natural environment, safe neighborhoods, and aggressive marketing of unhealthy products. Latinos and other people of color living in low-income areas are struggling to survive while large corporations are looking at them as the growing market to improve their bottom line.
Chronic disease is not good for California’s health, the human toll and economic burden should be incentive enough to open our community’s eyes to the truth. In California, we spend $37.1 billion on diabetes every year. Investing in prevention would be much cheaper than paying to manage an incurable disease such as type 2 diabetes. In the past years, LCHC has worked on the health impact fee policy or The Healthy California Fund, to raise revenue to invest in the root causes of type 2 diabetes, dental decay, and other chronic diseases. This policy would raise close to $3 billion through a tax on the companies that distribute sodas and sugary drinks. The revenue raised from this would help communities that are disproportionately impacted by chronic disease and have the highest cases of diabetes. It makes more sense to prevent a problem before it has occurred than to cure it or manage it during an entire lifetime. It also makes more sense for tax payers’ wallets.
I thank LCHC for opening my eyes and challenging me to understand the issues that impact people I love the most, my family. It if wasn’t for LCHC I would have not had the knowledge to share with my mom who drinks soda with every meal. I hope that we can continue to invest in our communities so that my mom and others have knowledge and healthier options in their communities. I am grateful to have acquired all this knowledge through this experience. I have gained some great skills working with LCHC as well as learned some valuable information regarding disease in Latinos and policy work. I cannot wait to get out into the world and put these skills and knowledge to use.
Billions of dollars are spent annually by food and beverage manufacturers along with industry-supported organizations such as trade associations, front groups, and public relations (PR) firms on emotional appeals such as these. Such ads insert the brands and products into our everyday lives, infuse our psyches with manufactured cravings for them, and shape the complex relationship we have with food.
Food marketing to kids is a huge piece of the U.S. obesity puzzle.
Latino kids are a prime target for food marketers, largely because of their large population numbers—they comprise 22% of all U.S. youth and will rise to 30% by 2025.
Global food companies have an influential impact on public health, and the enormous resources they direct toward marketing and branding of unhealthy foods has generated scrutiny of how food is marketed to children. Fast food consumed by children away from home in quick service restaurants (QSRs) is of particular concern, as it is linked to increased calorie intake and decreased diet quality. Further, increases in the proportion of calories consumed away from home corresponds with the onset of widespread obesity in the population. Finally, higher consumption of fast food has been linked with larger increases in body mass index over time.
Targeted Advertising, Promotion, and Price For Menthol Cigarettes in California High School Neighborhoods
Although more adolescents smoke nonmenthol than menthol cigarettes, preference for menthol cigarettes among teenage smokers in the United States increased from 43.4% in 2004 to 48.3% in 2008. When annual surveys were combined over the five-year period, more Black smokers (ages 12–17) preferred menthols (71.9%) than Hispanic smokers (47.0%) and non-Hispanic Whites (41.0%). Newport (manu- factured by Lorillard, Inc.) has been the most popular menthol brand since 1993, and its share of the total U.S. cigarette market was 9.8% in 2009 (Altria Client Services, 2010). The brand is distinctly more popular with younger smokers: In 2005, 23.2% of adolescent smokers (ages 12–17) and 17.8% of young adult smokers (ages 18–25) smoked Newport, but only 8.7% of older smokers preferred it. New- port is the most popular cigarette brand among Black smokers of all ages and second to Marlboro as the most popular brand among adolescent smokers.