Physical Education and Childhood Obesity

Causes of obesity are multifaceted—so too are the solutions. One significant area of concern is the decrease in the physical activity of youth and of physical education in schools. Many groups are looking at ways to require more physical education and encourage more physical activity.

AAF Position
The AAF is encouraged by efforts to improve physical education and activity, especially among children. Advertising can play a significant role. For example, the Ad Council has partnered with the Department of Health and Human Services to produce the "Small Steps" campaign, which encourages exercise and weight loss. Public service campaigns have had a dramatic impact on obesity, on drunk driving, on preventing forest fires and many other social issues.

AAF President and CEO Wally Snyder has spoken to several local advertising clubs across the country and met with key Senate staff members on this issue. The AAF is exploring partnerships with physical education groups such as PE4Life, which promotes physical education among youth, to learn how along with the advertising community we can best educate the public on the importance of physical education and activity. While advertising is not a cause of obesity, the AAF believes that advertising can be a part of the solution to the problem.

Critics of advertising, including consumer groups such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), overstate the role of advertising in causing obesity. Therefore, they emphasize advertising restrictions and overlook proactive steps taken by advertisers.

In the past Congress, Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., introduced two bills designed to encourage school districts to develop local, school based programs to promote physical education and nutrition. The AAF and advertising community expressed support for the bills, but no congressional action was taken.

Last updated: August 2007

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