Monitoring and restricting digital marketing of unhealthy products to children and adolescents – World Health Organization

Despite some existing political commitments and policies, the latest evidence shows that children and adolescents are still regularly exposed to the digital marketing of many unhealthy products. Such products include alcoholic drinks; foods high in saturated fat, salt and free sugars (HFSS foods); and tobacco, as well as new products such as electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) and other types of electronic nicotine-delivery systems. As time spent online shifts increasingly to social media and mobile devices, where personalized and targeted advertising predominates, the situation is likely to deteriorate. The response to this threat to children’s well-being from governments and public health institutions is lagging far behind. Efforts are complicated by rapid changes in digital and programmatic marketing strategies and the digital ecosystem. Tools and support are urgently needed to facilitate monitoring and implementation of the WHO recommendations in online settings.

In June 2018, the WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases organized an expert meeting on the monitoring of digital marketing of unhealthy products to children and adolescents. A report based on that meeting offers a flexible tool, the so-called CLICK monitoring framework, which can be adapted to national context to support Member States in the monitoring process. The report also describes current digital marketing strategies, the challenges arising from current practices, and some policy options to tackle digital marketing to children and adolescents. The CLICK monitoring framework is currently being piloted by several countries and has already provided valuable insights.

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