Childhood obesity is being comprehensively tackled by all sectors of society, including media, advertising and food companies, but the US government remains lacking in its response, according to the Association of National Advertisers (ANA).
Speaking at the launch of a new Media and Childhood Obesity task force last week, the ANA's executive vice president Daniel Jaffe said the federal government has not provided adequate funding to promote healthy eating and exercise.
For example, he said, funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity (DNPA) has remained relatively flat for several years, at $41.5 million.
"At that level, the CDC can only fund anti-obesity efforts in 28 states. There are no DNPA funds available for 22 other states, including Kansas, or for Mississippi and Louisiana, which have the highest obesity rates in the country," he told representatives of the government, food industry, public health groups and media organizations.
Jaffe added that the ANA is working to try to convince Congress to increase next year's budget in support of these efforts. The organization, which represents US companies that collectively spend over $100bn in marketing communications and advertising, has joined forces in this aim with a coalition of companies, health groups and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). They are calling on Congress to provide an FY2008 appropriation of $65m for the CDC to promote healthy eating and physical activity.
"That amount would allow the CDC to fund all of the states in the DNPA program. The federal government needs to accelerate these programs if it is truly to become a leader in this effort to combat childhood obesity," said Jaffe.
Jaffe was one of the speakers at last week's childhood obesity task force meeting, hosted by Senator Brownback. Other speakers included the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Kevin Martin, and its commissioners Michael Copps and Deborah Taylor Tate.
Further addresses at Wednesday's meeting were given by representatives of the Institute of Medicine, Disney, Grocery Manufacturers Association, Children Now and Sesame Workshop.
The new task force was set up in response to the rise in childhood obesity, which has "gone from a national problem to a point of crisis", according to FCC's Martin.
The task force, which will promote voluntary efforts throughout all segments of society to address the issue, includes groups from the government, industry and media, as well as consumer advocacy groups, advertisers and health experts.
Some of the nation's major food firms will be taking part in the initiative, including Kraft, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Kellogg's and PepsiCo.
Health groups involved include the American Diabetes Association, the American Society for Nutrition and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Media or communications networks joining the initiative include Ion Media Networks, Viacom, Discovery Channel, Walt Disney Company and Sesame Workshop. Amongst other participants are also the Ad Council, Association of National Advertisers, and the American Association of Advertising Agencies.