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Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance
in television watching occurred prior to 1980, which preceded the obesity epidemic (Sturm, 2004). The leisure, entertainment, and recreation industries can help counter the physical inactivity trend by promoting active leisure-time pursuits, while at the same time developing new products and markets. The introduction of products that involve more physical activity by some industry leaders suggests that some already believe they can create a significant market for these types of products.
Some companies have used popular athletic figures, who are potential role models for active and healthful lifestyles, to promote sedentary lifestyles. Instead, the industries could leverage their existing relationships with celebrities to convey messages that encourage physical activity and healthful living and reduce sedentary behaviors.
Some potentially positive efforts are now under way. One athletic apparel manufacturer provides funding to build, upgrade, or refurbish sports courts and other athletic facilities throughout the United States; awards grants to nonprofit organizations and governmental partners; supports physical education classes in elementary schools; and is a partner in Shaping America’s Youth, a national cross-sectoral initiative for promoting physical activity and healthful lifestyles during childhood (Nike, 2004). Activity-based games offer opportunities for the leisure industry to market a product that promotes physical activity in children and youth. The evaluation of private-sector programs is crucial in order to assess if they are effective in increasing physical activity, especially among high-risk populations, and determine if they may have unanticipated and adverse consequences.
Full-Service and Fast Food Restaurant Industry
Increased consumption of food outside of the home has been one of the most marked changes in the American diet over the past several decades. In 1970, household income allotted to away-from-home foods accounted for 25 percent of total food spending; by 1999, it had reached nearly one-half (47 percent) of total food spending (Lin et al., 1999c). Total consumer spending on food dispensed for immediate consumption outside the home amounted to $415 billion in 2002 (Stewart et al., 2004). Similarly, a greater proportion of consumers’ nutrients is now derived from foods purchased outside the home.
Consumption of away-from-home foods comprised 20 percent of children’s total calorie intake in 1977, rising to 32 percent in 1994-1996 (Lin et al., 1999b). For adults, such foods provided more than one-third (34 percent) of total calories in 1995 (Lin et al., 1999a).
The frequency of dining out rose by more than two-thirds over the past two decades, from 16 percent in 1977-1978 to 27 percent in 1995 (Lin et