Unhealthy Food Marketing Targets Hispanic Youth, UConn Researchers Find

Hispanic children and youth, particularly youth in Spanish-speaking households, visited food/beverage websites at higher rates than their non-Hispanic counterparts, despite fewer visits to the Internet overall, according to a research study published by University of Connecticut faculty members. “The frequency with which youth in Spanish-speaking households visited popular food and beverage websites compared with primarily English-speaking Hispanic youth raises further concerns due to the potential for these sites to reinforce preferences for an ‘‘American’’ diet among less acculturated youth, which could contribute to Hispanic youth’s worsening diet with greater acculturation,” Maia Hyary and Jennifer Harris point out in the inaugural issue of the journal Health Equity, published in September.

They stress that “Further research is needed to understand why Hispanic youth disproportionately visit food/beverage websites to help inform potential actions to reduce their exposure to unhealthy food marketing.”

The researchers warn that “given higher rates of obesity and diet-related diseases among Hispanic youth, food and beverage companies should not target marketing of unhealthy products to Hispanic youth online.”

Dr. Jennifer L. Harris is Director of Marketing Initiatives at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity and Associate Professor in Allied Health Sciences at University of Connecticut. She leads a multidisciplinary team of researchers who study food marketing to children, adolescents, and parents, and how it impacts their diets and health. Maia Hyary is a PhD student at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University and a former Rudd Center Research Associate.

Food and beverage companies often target marketing for nutrient-poor products such as candy, sugary drinks, snack foods, and fast-food restaurants to Hispanic audiences, including youth, the researchers state.  They cite previous research that has documented disproportionate exposure to unhealthy food marketing by Hispanic youth in their communities and on TV, but theirs is the first examination of the phenomenon on the internet.

Sites that were relatively more popular with Hispanic youth than with non-Hispanic youth included ChuckeCheese.com, HappyMeal.com, the Lunchables website, FrostedFlakes.com, and two Spanish language websites (ComidaKraft.com and McDonald’sMeEncanta.com). Among Hispanic children (under 12 years), ChuckECheese.com, FrootLoops.com, HappyMeal.com, TacoBell.com, LuckyCharms.com, and SubwayKids.com were relatively more popular.

Health Equity is a new peer-reviewed open access journal that “meets the urgent need for authoritative information about health disparities and health equity among vulnerable populations,” according to the publication’s website, “with the goal of providing optimal outcomes and ultimately health equity for all.” The journal intends to provide coverage ranging from translational research to prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and management of disease and illness, in order to serve as a primary resource for organizations and individuals who serve these populations at the community, state, regional, tribal, and national levels.


PHOTO:  Dr. Jennifer L. Harris, Maia Hyary

How Connected is Connecticut? State Ranks 6th in the USA

Internet access is as good in Connecticut as just about anywhere else in the country.  A new report on the Top Connected States in America ranks Connecticut as the 6th most connected state in the nation. The analysis, by USDish.com, found that the top 10 states showing excellent connectivity to broadband all value connecting rural citizens to the resources they need to succeed economically, both in school and at work. “Overall we found that the most important factor in these states’ ability to connect rural citizens to the internet were the use of government funded broadband task forces, infrastructure maintenance, and local support. The states that listened to the community were more likely to connect them to proper resources and economic growth flourished.”

While Connecticut ranked 6th overall, the state’s ranking varied in each of the categories of the analysis:  Connecticut ranked 10th in Access, 1st in Rural Access, 12th in Speed, and 21st in Support (by government).

Analysts compiled and ranked the report using data from the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, the EducationSuperHighway non-profit, Fastmetrics, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

Connecticut ranked 10th in Access, 1st in Rural Access, 12th in Speed, and 21st in Support.  The top five states for Rural Access were all in the Northeast – Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. “Perhaps the emphasis on education and communication makes it easier to access the internet as a student, even in a rural area like Connecticut,” the analysis stated.

The analysis points out that a main reason why people don’t have access to broadband internet is due to a lack of income. Cited is a Pew Research poll that found 23 percent of people making under $30,000 per year don’t use the internet, possibly because of the high price for something they don’t consider a basic need. Most rural schools across the country still lack access to fiber and pay more than twice as much for bandwidth.

In contrast, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Maryland all have state government broadband task forces which promote the expansion of internet access throughout their rural areas, the analysis points out.

For internet access per state, the USDish team analyzed the percentage of school districts meeting a minimum of 100 Kbps per student.  They also examined the percentage of those with an internet subscription, and the total percentage of users with any access to the internet at all, be it in the form of a community library, town hall, or school.

Speed was analyzed by the average Mbps per state, and they evaluated states on whether they had a stimulus project, broadband task force, or whether the state had barriers preventing them from expanding the connectivity of those living in the area (i.e. laws, infrastructure support, prohibitions, etc.). As for rural area access, data on the number of households that had broadband internet in both urban and rural areas was used.  USDish.com is an authorized retailer of DISH Network.

CT Ranks #4 in High-Speed Internet Use; #14 in Computer Ownership, Census Data Shows

Connecticut ranks #14 in the nation in computer ownership, and #4 in high-speed internet use, according to national data compiled by the U.S. Census. Overall, 83.8 percent of U.S. households reported computer ownership, with 78.5 percent of all households having a desktop or laptop computer, and 63.6 percent having a handheld computer, according to the recently released data.acslogo

The top ten in computer ownership were Utah, New Hampshire, Alaska, Wyoming, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Minnesota, Maryland and New Jersey.  Also just ahead of Connecticut were Hawaii, Massachusetts and Idaho.

Nationwide, 88.4 percent of the population lives in a household with a computer.  In Connecticut, it is 90.8 percent.  Utah leads the way at 94.9 percent.  At the bottom of the list are West Virginia, Alabama, New Mexico and Mississippi, all at just under 83 percent.

The Census Bureau da5ta also indicated that, on average, 78.1 percent of Americans live in a household with high-speed Internet use.  The top ranked states were New Hampshire (85.7%), Massachusetts (85.3%), New Jersey (84.5%), and Connecticut (83.9%).  Rounding out the top ten are Utah, Maryland, Hawaii, Washington, Colorado and Rhode Island.  The lowest percentages were in New Mexico, Arkansas and Mississippi.

In analyzing the data from metropolitan areas, the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that none of Connecticut’s metro regions made the nation’s top 30 in computer ownership, but the Bridgeport-Stamford- Norwalk metropolitan region was ranked #7 in the nation in high-speed internet use.

The data used in the report, released in November 2014 for calendar year 2013, comes from the American Community Survey, a large and continu­ous national level data collection effort performed by the Census Bureau. Computer and Internet data from the ACS are based on a sample of approximately 3.5 million addresses.

Nationwide, 74.4 percent of all households reported Internet use, with 73.4 percent reporting a high-speed connection.

Of the 25 states with rates of computer ownership above the national average, 17 were located in either the West or Northeast. Of the 26 states with rates of high-speed Internet suhigh-speed-internetbscriptions above the national average, 18 were located in either the West or Northeast.

The Census Bureau also reported that although household computer ownership was consistently higher than household Internet use, both followed similar patterns across demographic groups. For example, computer ownership and Internet use were most common in homes with relatively young household­ers, and both indicators dropped off steeply as a householder’s age increased.

The most common household connection type was via a cable modem (42.8 percent), followed by mobile broadband (33.1 per­cent), and DSL connections (21.2 percent).

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