Television marketing of unhealthy foods and food choice amongst primary school-age children in Kampala
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Background: There majority of television adverts targeted to children are for unhealthy foods. The increased time spent by children watching television increases their exposure to unhealthy food adverts which is associated with increased preference for unhealthy foods. Most studies on the association between unhealthy food advertising and child food preference have been conducted in developed countries. Unhealthy food adverts on television are associated with children’s food preferences. Objective: This study aimed at finding out the knowledge of Ugandan children about unhealthy food marketing on television, the most popularly advertised foods and the influence of television food marketing of unhealthy foods on children on their food choices. Methods: This was a cross sectional study. Primary school-age children (n = 86) aged 10 to 14 years from Nakasero Primary School were included in this study. Children’s knowledge of television food adverts, food preference and television viewing habits were assessed using a self-administered questionnaire. Knowledge of television food adverts was scored by children’s recall of food adverts, the nature of adverts they found appealing. Food preference for unhealthy foods was assessed using a likert scale with smiley faces. Both the amount of time spent watching television as well as watching television beyond 9:00 pm were recorded to determine television viewing habits. Random sampling was done in the three streams of primary six class. Assessment of nutritional status was done anthropometrically (height and weight) to determine Body Mass Index. Chi-square tests and Independent sample t-tests were done to generate p-values. Results: The children were aged 10 to 14 years with a mean of the children was 11.59 years. Majority of the children were Ugandan (94.2%). Most of the children’s mothers were businesswomen. The prevalence of underweight, overweight and obesity were 3.5%, 11.8% and 1.2 %, respectively. The mean score of knowledge of healthiness of diet was (5.44 ± 2.53). The preference for xi unhealthy foods (19.13 ± 3.35) was higher than for healthier foods (15.09 ± 2.88). Both Length of watching television and watching television beyond 9:00 pm were found significantly associated with unhealthy food preference, p < 0.05. Location and availability also influence food preference as well as their consumption. Conclusion: The children were knowledgeable of the unhealthy food adverts on television and they could describe the nature of those adverts they found appealing. The popular food adverts were for ice cream, chips, pizza, soda and water. Both length of watching television and watching television beyond 9:00 pm were significantly associated with unhealthy food preference. Therefore, there is need for parental restriction of time children spend watching television especially to not go beyond 9:00 pm.