A field study of the prevalence of healthy and less healthy advertisements near schools in a London borough

A research abstract that I co-authored with my dietetic colleague has been published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics (JHND). Click here to read full abstract paper.

Childhood obesity is one of the major public health issues in the United Kingdom. It was previously reported that 1 in 3 children will be overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school.

Even though the aetiology of obesity is multifactorial, regularly consuming more calories than needed and physical inactivity are key contributors. With existing studies indicating that advertising and persuasive marketing of products high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) encourages children to buy them, we investigated the prevalence of adverts near schools in an East London borough promoting HFSS foods termed ‘less healthy’ according to the Nutrient Profiling Model (NPM).

As well as this, we explored associations and differences between type of adverts displayed in different socioeconomic settings.

To our knowledge, our study is the first of its kind to be completed in London, similar studies have been done in some parts of Europe and New Zealand. Our study forms the basis for further research to be done to investigate the prevalence of HFSS ads near schools across the London region. We previously challenged the government to assess compliances to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) code where marketers are advised to ensure outdoor HFSS ads are not targeted at an audience which consists of more than 25% of under-16s.

There has been efforts made in the past to restrict HFSS ads such as the TfL junk food ads ban and the government proposing rules to restrict retailers using promotions thought to cause excessive consumption of HFSS food and drinks by children. However, more needs to be done to create a healthier environment for children which may help inform them to make better dietary choices.


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