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Television food advertising viewed by preschoolers, children and adolescents: contributors to differences in exposure for black and white youth in the United States

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Summary

Background

Public health experts raise concerns about adolescents' and black youth's greater exposure to TV advertising for unhealthy foods and beverages compared with children and white youth.

Objectives

Examine how television-viewing patterns and rates of advertising during targeted programming contribute to this greater exposure.

Methods

Nielsen panel data provided viewing times and amount of food advertising viewed on U.S. television in 2008 and 2012. Researchers compared results by network type (black-, child- and youth-targeted), age group (preschoolers, children and adolescents) and race (black and white youth).

Results

Food advertising exposure increased with age for both black and white youth, but black youth viewed approximately 50% or more ads than did white youth of the same age. Higher rates of food advertising on youth-targeted networks explained greater adolescent exposure. However, greater television viewing and higher rates of advertising on youth- and black-targeted networks both contributed to black youth's greater exposure. From 2008 to 2012, increases in food-ads-per-hour increased exposure for all youth.

Conclusions

Food advertisers and networks, especially those targeting adolescents and black youth, must do more to reduce advertising that negatively impacts young people's health. Furthermore, reducing commercial-television viewing by black youth may help reduce health disparities affecting their communities.

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