Day One of Childhood Obesity Conference

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Day One of the California Childhood Obesity Conference and we just broke for lunch. Already learning and hearing about programs, initiatives and research to combat this childhood obesity conundrum.

First thing this morning a big wig from Sesame Workshop, VP Jeanette Betancourt, gave us the rundown on new Sesame Street programming called "Healthy Habits for Life". It does seem like a no-brainer that Sesame Street would get in on the healthy bandwagon but according to Betancourt, they really had to examine what they were doing that actually promoted unhealthy practices. Yes the muppets were on Pez dispensers and the like. But now they're on Del Monte fruit and vegetable canned goods. So progress is being made and their preschool kid programming features healthy characters and messages like "Furry Fit and Fun", "Eat Your Colors Every Day", "A Cookie is a Sometimes Food".

I don't watch Sesame Street myself, and when I went on the website I didn't find this new programming; so I am wondering if any of you have seen the "Healthy Habits for Life" programming on the show. If so what have you seen and what do you think of it? Good messages that kids respond to? Responsible? I'd like to hear your feedback (guess I'll have to TiVO it one of these days to see for myself).

Straight from kid TV we heard about kid food marketing (mostly junk food) that our children on getting bombarded with every day via TV, DVDs, online, billboards, packaging, advergames, cell phone and IM contests (text messaging), product placement, sponsorships (think the Pepsi marquee at you child's school) and so on and so on. Did you know our kids spend 44.5 hours a week in front of a screen, or radio, or magazines that's not related to school activities? That's more than a full time job! And they see 40,000 TV commercials a year, 83% of which are for the least healthy food choices (I'm trying to be diplomatic but we're talkin' junk food and beverages, fast food mainly. Not a lot of ads for broccoli).

The group that put on this particular workshop is called Common Sense Media and they advocate that we teach our kids to be media savvy. I.e. Ask them to critically evaluate what they see, hear and read. Guide them to ask key media literacy questions such as:
"Who created this message? To whom are they sending it? Why? Why am I paying attention to this message? What techniques are they using to get my attention? and many more.

I encourage you to visit their website www.commonsensemedia.org to learn more about how you and your children can get more "Media Savvy". Click on Tips where you will find resources to help you have a healthy media diet.

And that's about all I can take after lunch. I'm off to learn about obesity drugs and bariatric surgery for adolescents.
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About the Author

Registered dietitian Andrea N. Giancoli is a nutrition advocate, consultant and educator.

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