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Unhealthy Food Advertising Targets Consumers of Color



Candy, sugary drinks, snacks, and cereal made up 73% of food and beverage ad spending on Black-targeted and Spanish-language TV in 2021, according to a new study by the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Health at the University of Connecticut.

The more than $1 billion spent on this targeted marketing exacerbates inequities in poor diet and diet-related diseases in communities of color, including heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. For this report, the Rudd Center analyzed TV advertising by all food and beverage companies. However, 19 companies were responsible for 75% of all TV food and beverage advertising spending, 79% of Spanish- language TV advertising, and 82% of Black-targeted TV advertising. 

These companies included PepsiCo, Kellogg Company, The Coca-Cola Company, The Hershey Company, General Mills, Mondelez International, The Kraft Heinz Company, Mars, Ferrero USA, Nestle USA, Keurig Dr Pepper, Red Bull, Campbell Soup Company, Unilever United States, Tyson Foods, Danone North America, The Wonderful Company, Post Foods, and Conagra Brands, Inc.

The proportion of unhealthy products featured in food and beverage TV ads targeted to Black and Hispanic consumers increased from 2017 to 2021.

  • Candy, sugary drinks, snacks, and cereals represented three-quarters of Spanish-language and Black-targeted TV ad spending in 2021, up from approximately one-half each in 2017.
  • In 2021, Black youth and adults viewed 9% to 21% more food and beverage TV ads compared to their white peers.
  • Companies also increased their focus on advertising to Spanish-speaking audiences, evidenced by an increase in the proportion of total TV ad dollars companies dedicated to Spanish-language TV from 2017 to 2021 (7.8% vs. 8.5%).

There were reductions in total TV food and beverage advertising spending and TV ad exposure due to major shifts in TV viewing habits.

  • Total TV food and beverage ad spending declined by 25% between 2017 and 2021, and children and teens viewed 58% to 62% fewer TV ads overall.
  • TV ads viewed by Hispanic teens on Spanish-language TV declined at a lower rate, by 38%.
  • Disparities in TV advertising exposure for Black versus white youth also decreased, due to greater declines in TV ads viewed by Black youth (66-70%) than by white youth (56-58%).
  • However, reductions in TV food ad exposure mirrored declines in the amount of time spent watching TV, including by Black, white, and Hispanic youth, and do not appear to reflect a change in ethnically targeted marketing strategies by food companies.

A review of companies’ public statements also found numerous examples of targeted marketing campaigns aimed at multicultural youth.

  • Many campaigns incorporated hip-hop and Latinx music celebrities and other youth-oriented themes. Extensive cause-related marketing included donations and collaborations with nonprofits to benefit communities of color and foster goodwill for almost exclusively unhealthy food and beverage brands.

“Companies express how much they respect the culture and concerns of Black and Hispanic communities, but at the same time, they appear to ignore the negative health impacts of the products they promote to Black and Hispanic youth,” said Fran Fleming-Milici, PhD, study co-author and the Rudd Center’s director of Marketing Initiatives.

Black Life Texas

Texas Has High Obesity Rates



It’s always bigger in Texas – so are the people! 

According to a recent report by Trust for America’s Health, 35.5% of the adult population in Texas is considered obese. Louisiana, West Virginia and Oklahoma were among the states that had the highest obesity rate – 40% or more.. Texas was among 21 states whose obese percentage was 35% or more. 

Over the past two decades, obesity rates have climbed for all population groups, with certain populations of color experiencing the highest rates, often due to structural barriers to healthy eating and a lack of opportunities and places to be physically active. Nationally, 41.9 percent of adults have obesity. Black and Latino adults have the highest obesity rates at 49.9 percent and 45.6 percent, respectively. People living in rural communities have higher rates of obesity than people living in urban and suburban areas. 

This 2023 version is the 20th annual report on the antecedents and rates of obesity in the U.S. and policy solutions. Obesity rates are also increasing among children and adolescents, with nearly 20 percent of U.S. children ages 2 to 19 having obesity, according to 2017–2020 NHANES data. These rates have more than tripled since the mid-1970s, and Black and Latino youth have substantially higher rates of obesity than do their white peers.

According to TFAH’s analysis of the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, in 2022, 22 states had an adult obesity rate at or above 35 percent, up from 19 states the prior year. A decade ago, no state had an adult obesity rate at or above the 35 percent level.

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Black Life Texas

Hidden Sugars Served Up to Kids



To reduce childhood obesity, the USDA recently held a comment request this past February for feedback on its proposal to revise long-term school nutrition standards, which includes less added sugars in school lunch and breakfast programs.

They proposed two alternatives: Beginning in the school year 2025-26, allow flavored milk (fat-free and low-fat) at school lunch and breakfast for high school children (grades 9-12) only. Elementary and middle school children (K-8) would be limited to fat-free and/or low-fat unflavored milk. The other alternative is to maintain the current standard, which allows all schools to offer fat-free and low-fat milk, flavored and unflavored, at school lunch and breakfast. 

With over 14 million kids considered obese in the U.S., every little bit helps. For example, most elementary and middle schools offer fat-free chocolate milk. The 8-ounce carton contains about 18 grams of sugar. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children ages 2-18 should have a maximum of 6 teaspoons or 25 grams of sugar daily.

A recent analysis of USDA’s School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study data found that flavored milk is the leading source of added sugars in the school lunch and breakfast programs, contributing almost half of the added sugars in lunches and about 30% of the added sugars in breakfasts.

The proposal states, “This approach would reduce exposure to added sugars and promote the more nutrient-dense choice of unflavored milk for young children when their tastes are being formed.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics says there are so many foods often marketed as “healthy” for kids and families that are unfortunately not great for maintaining a healthy weight or overall health.

Top Foods with Hidden Sugars:

  • Sports drinks and energy drinks
  • 100% juice drinks 
  • Breads and cereals
  • Yogurts and flavored milks
  • Most breakfast foods (cereals, pancakes, waffles, croissants)
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Black Life Texas

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month



Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among men in the United States. According to the latest research from scientists at the American Cancer Society (ACS), more than 288,000 men will be diagnosed with the disease this year, with close to 35,000 deaths. Black men are two times more likely to die from the disease than white men and have the highest death rate for prostate cancer of any racial and ethnic group. However, when prostate cancer is detected early, the odds of survival are high. More than 3.5 million men diagnosed with the disease in the U.S. are still alive today.

What are the warning signs of prostate cancer?
For some men, prostate cancer may lead to urinary problems, such as having difficulty starting urination or urinating frequently, or pain during ejaculation. These symptoms and signs also occur with non-cancer conditions, so it’s important to follow up with a physician to find out what’s causing these symptoms. If a cancer has already grown beyond the prostate, there may be pain in the hips, back, or other areas. For most people, however, no symptoms indicate prostate cancer and the cancer is diagnosed with a biopsy following an abnormal blood test.

What is the treatment for prostate cancer? This is an exciting time in prostate cancer, with substantial progress in new therapies over the past ten years. When the cancer is still confined to the prostate (localized), surgery (radical prostatectomy) and certain forms of radiation are useful to treat and cure prostate cancer. For men who have a low risk of their prostate cancer metastasizing, active surveillance – in which a patient is closely monitored for signs of cancer progression – can also be an important treatment to consider. When the cancer is more aggressive, other therapies include targeted hormonal pathways, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiopharmaceuticals. 

Is there a screening test for prostate cancer? 

The primary screening test for prostate cancer involves taking a blood sample and testing it for the level of a marker called prostate-specific antigen (PSA). Higher levels of PSA in the blood can indicate prostate cancer, but also may be higher in benign conditions such as an enlarged prostate. While regular PSA screening can reduce prostate cancer mortality, there is some controversy since the test can pick up slower-growing cancers that will never lead to harm. An area of active research now aims to make more effective screening approaches, targeting the men at the highest risk of prostate cancer and then safely letting people know they can screen less regularly. 

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