In the United States, Covid-19 appears to be infecting, hospitalizing and killing black people and Latinos at alarmingly high rates, with data from several states illustrating this pattern. Health disparities in nutrition and obesity, often deriving from structural racism, correlate closely with the alarming racial and ethnic disparities related to Covid-19. See, “Covid-19 and Disparities in Nutrition and Obesity” in the New England Journal of Medicine (July 15, 2020) .
Structural inequalities across U.S. society contribute to this problem, including unequal access to fresh healthy foods, unequal access to health care, socioeconomic factors and excess exposure to toxic chemicals and unhealthy air, to name a few. For more information about structural inequities in our food system, see resources from Duke University’s World Food Policy Center and the Food First Institute for Development and Food Policy.
Another problem is that food companies specifically and disproportionately target communities of color with their marketing for junk food products. In this post we are tracking news coverage and studies about racial disparities in junk food advertising.
Data on the disproportionate targeting of junk food advertising and marketing to communities of color
TV Advertising, Corporate Power, and Latino Health Disparities, American Journal of Preventative Medicine (June 2022)
- “Overall greater health-adverse and fewer health-beneficial advertisements are broadcasted on Spanish-language than on English-language TV. Unchecked corporate marketing strategies may serve as a commercial determinant of health disparities for Latino populations by Spanish-language TV.”
Is obesity a manifestation of systemic racism? A ten-point strategy for study and intervention, by D.G. Aaron and F.C. Stanford, Journal of Internal Medicine perspectives (2021)
- Are higher obesity rates in minority groups a product of systemic racism? Mass General EurekAlert press release (3.8.21)
Increasing disparities in unhealthy food advertising targeted to Hispanic and Black youth, Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity; Council on Black Health (January 2019)
Television food advertising viewed by preschoolers, children and adolescents: contributors to differences in exposure for black and white youth in the United States, Rudd Center of Food Policy and Obesity (May 2016)
Food advertising targeted to Hispanic and Black youth: Contributing to health disparities, Rudd Center for Food Policy, AACORN, Salud America! (August 2015)
Limit junk-food ads that contribute to childhood obesity, Statement by the American Medical Association (2018)
Health equity & junk food marketing: talking about targeting kids of color, Berkeley Media Studies Group (2017)
To Choose (Not) to Eat Healthy: Social Norms, Self‐affirmation, and Food Choice, by Aarti Ivanic, Psychology and Marketing (July 2016)
Disparities in Obesity-Related Outdoor Advertising by Neighborhood Income and Race, Journal of Urban Health (2015)
Child-Directed Marketing Inside and on the Exterior of Fast Food Restaurants, American Journal of Preventive Medicine (2014)
Impact of Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption on Black Americans’ Health, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation(2011)
The Context for Choice: Health Implications of Targeted Food and Beverage Marketing to African Americans, American Journal of Public Health (2008)
Fast Food: Oppression through Poor Nutrition, California Law Review (2007)
The Health Impact of Targeted Marketing: An Interview with Sonya Grier, Corporations and Health Watch (2010)
News coverage and perspectives
Junk Food Ads Are Still Targeting Kids of Color: For Black and Latino communities that already have higher rates of diabetes and obesity, fast-food advertising adds another layer to intergenerational health inequities, by Elena Gooray, Vice News (9.16.21)
Racism and obesity are inextricably linked, says a Harvard doctor – and here’s how she thinks that can change, by Arianna MacNeill, Boston.com (4.12.21)
What does junk food have to do with COVID-19 deaths? by Carey Gillam, Environmental Health News (4.28.20).
Junk food ads disproportionately target black and Hispanic kids: report, by Lisa Rapaport, Reuters (1.17.19)
Black and Hispanic youth are targeted with junk food ads, research shows, by Jessica Ravitz, CNN (1.15.19)
People of color have the highest obesity rates in the US. Food marketing is part of the problem: Interview with Aarti Ivanic by Nadra Little, Vox (9.28.18)
Study: Black children are exposed to junk-food ads way more than white kids are, by Caitlin Dewey, Washington Post (12.15.16)
Exposé on how McDonald’s and Burger King targeted African Americans in the 1970s, by Lenika Cruz, The Atlantic (6.7.15)
Fast-Food Chains Disproportionately Target Black Children, by Olga Khazan, The Atlantic (11.13.14)
Fast food marketing for children disproportionately affects certain communities, Arizona State University (10.14)