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Get ‘em when they’re young: junk food advertising in Nepal

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Our colleagues at the Resource Center for Primary Health Care (RECPHEC) in Nepal were sure that advertisements of junk food (such as soft drinks and chips) were targeting children. But how to prove the point? With guidance from HealthBridge, RECPHEC carried out a study of TV advertisements for junk food. The study covered both Indian and Nepali channels, due to the high number of Indian TV channels aired in Nepal and their popularity. In comparing the number of junk food ads on adult and children’s programming, the differences were remarkable: 48% of ads on a cartoon program were for junk foods, versus only 8% of the ads on a news program. Many of the ads claimed that the products are good for health and nutrition, make children more energetic, and build up stamina. The difficulty children have in distinguishing between advertisements and programming, and their lack of sound information about diet, make children a particularly vulnerable target, which is why some countries ban or limit advertising on children’s TV shows. The research in Nepal is the first step in a campaign to address the growing problem of junk food, with all its negative effects including obesity and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The research is also serving as a model for the other countries in HealthBridge’s network, as we work to promote health and to protect people from misleading ads.