Does outdoor food & beverage advertising target youth

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Xie, Zhengrong

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Introduction: Youth are particularly susceptible to Food and Beverage (F&B) advertising. This is problematic as targeted F&B marketing has been considered as a potent contributor to childhood obesity. However, most research has focused on television and digital advertising while outdoor F&B advertising has received less attention. Therefore, to better understand if food marketing is directed toward youth, this study aimed to determine if outdoor F&B ads were more pervasive near youth-serving institutions than community-serving institutions in Austin. Methods: Secondary data from the Outdoor MEDIA study, a study designed to document and code F&B ads within a half-mile of 33 middle schools (MS), 13 high schools (HS), and 8 hospitals in Central Texas. One-way ANOVA tests were used to compare mean differences in total F&B ads, fast-food ads, and F&B ads containing price information across MS, HS, and hospitals. Linear regression analyses were conducted to determine if the F&B advertising varied with school type controlling for school-level socioeconomic status (SES). The chi-square test was used to compare proportions of fast-food ads and price-information ads in all F&B ads across MS, HS, and hospitals. Results: No significant mean difference in F&B ads was found across the MS, HS and hospitals. However, lower SES schools were exposed to significantly higher numbers of price information F&B ads. Across the institution types, the proportion of fast-food ads out of all ads was less prevalent around HS compared to MS (44.0% vs. 50.4%, p < 0.05) and to Hospitals (44.0% vs. 49.8%, p < 0.05). The proportion of price information ads was greater near HS compared to MS (22.3% vs. 18.3%, p < 0.05) and to Hospitals (22.3% vs. 14.7%, p < 0.05), and the proportion near MS (18.3%) was greater than Hospitals (14.7%) (p < 0.05). Conclusion: Nearly half of F&B ads belong to the fast-food category across all institution types. Also, as a commonly used marketing method, the proportion of price information F&B ads near schools was notably higher than hospitals. Future policies regarding outdoor advertising should focus on the reduction of the frequency of unhealthy foods as well as price promotion strategies near youth-serving areas in the United States.


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