The marketing of unhealthy foods and non-alcoholic beverages (hereafter: food) has been strongly implicated in the rising levels of childhood obesity worldwide. The proliferation of food and beverage marketing, including in digital spaces, has led to concerns about its influence on the health and wellbeing of children, particularly given their cognitive and developmental vulnerabilities. There is increasing evidence to suggest that food marketing is highly prevalent in the digital media young people use most frequently and that his has implications for dietary health. Exposure to powerful food marketing messages adversely affects children’s food behaviours and behavioural antecedents (norms, beliefs, attitudes). In parallel, evidence suggests that restrictive policies can achieve meaningful reductions in the nature and extent of unhealthy food marketing as well as reduced purchasing of unhealthy foods. While effective regulation of the digital world may be more challenging and has yet to be achieved in any country, some Governments, such as in the UK, are seeking to strengthen existing food marketing policies including the digital component. Effective policies are needed to ensure that young people can participate freely in the digital world, benefitting from the information age to the maximum degree, without their dietary health being adversely affected as they do. The presentation will use the latest evidence to explain and dissect these issues and their implications for public health research and policy.
Emma Boyland is a Professor of Food Marketing and Child Health based in the Department of Psychology at the University of Liverpool, where she is Research Lead for the Department and leads the Appetite and Obesity Research group. As an experimental psychologist, her work principally focuses on the food environment, characterising the foods and beverages available, how they are marketed, and how this impacts on eating behaviours (particularly in children). She has extensive experience of knowledge exchange and translation, supporting use of evidence to inform policy progress in the UK and internationally. She has recently completed three WHO commissioned reviews on the impact of food marketing on eating behaviour and health and the effectiveness of food marketing policies to inform updated WHO global guidelines. She sits on the WHO Global Steering Committee for digital food marketing and is an expert advisor to both WHO Europe and UNICEF, driving innovation in food marketing monitoring methods as well as leading studies using these methods across Europe, Latin America, and the East Asia-Pacific region.
Emma is an established global leader in her research field and has authored over 115 peer-reviewed journal articles to date, as well as multiple World Health Organization (WHO) reports and book chapters. Prof Boyland has received more than £4 million in research funding to her institution, from funders including the National Institute of Health Research, the MRC, ESRC, the Wellcome Trust, WHO, and Cancer Research UK.