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CDC Uses Advertising Campaign to Get Kids Moving

Public health experts are taking note of what the food industry has known for decades: children pay attention to advertising//.

Now, a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that advertising can succeed in getting kids to be more physically active.

The study evaluated results of the first two years of the CDC youth media campaign “VERB: It’s what you do,” a national mass marketing program that promoted physical activity among children ages 9 to 13 years.

The program ran from 2002 to 2006 and reached 17 million children in the United States. In addition to television, radio and print advertising, the campaign also used the Internet and school- and community-based programs to get the message across to tweens that physical activity is fun.

And it worked, says study co-author Marian Huhman, Ph.D.: “The bottom line is children who saw the VERB campaign were more physically active than those who didn’t see it. We were ‘selling’ physical activity as a product and lots of kids ‘bought’ [it].”

The study appears in the January issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

To evaluate the program, researchers surveyed a nationally representative sample of more than 3,000 parent-child pairs at the beginning of the advertising campaign and again two years later. Researchers asked participants about physical activity levels and attitudes toward being active.

They found that the more frequently children saw campaign messages, the more physical activity they reported. In addition, their attitudes about physical activity became more positive.

Two years into the campaign, children who were aware of the CDC program engaged in about four weekly sessions of physical activity, compared with three sessions for children who had no exposure to it.

And of children who had heard of the campaign, almost all reported that they understood at least on
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