According to the World Health Organization (WHO), of the 42 million children worldwide aged 5 and under who are overweight or obese, 35 million are in poor countries. In fact, non-communicable diseases - such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer - now account for 90 percent of premature deaths in these low- and middle-income countries. And obesity is the major cause of this problem.
So it's no wonder that WHO's global health policy this year will focus on these non-communicable diseases and the ways that governments and private sector companies can work together to improve the numbers.
For starters, health experts at WHO are suggesting that governments work with industry to restrict advertising of foods high in salt, sugar and dangerous fats targeted at children. WHO's recommendations ask both sectors to limit not only the frequency of this type of advertising, but also its "power" -- such as the use of cartoons that appeal to children.
WHO officials consulted leading companies in the sector -- Coca-Cola, Mexico's Grupo Bimbo, General Mills, Kellogg, Kraft, McDonald's, Mars, Nestle, Pepsico, Unilever and the World Federation of Advertisers --in drawing up their recommendation. These companies have all committed to limit the marketing of unhealthy foods to children under 12 and to draw up a code of conduct that would require voluntary monitoring of this commitment.
It sounds like a good start, but I have to wonder how strict this "voluntary monitoring" will be. I'm also curious as to why they are only restricting their unhealthy food marketing when it comes to children under 12.
The tween years are critical in the fight against childhood obesity because they are marked by such major changes in a child's body. They also represent the first years in which kids make many of their own food choices at school and on the go. Not exactly a great age to hit them with a lot of junk food advertising. Unless, of course, you're the one selling the junk food.
What do you think? Will restricted marketing of unhealthy foods to kids help to reduce childhood obesity rates?