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Supporting Childhood Obesity Initiatives

There is an adage in the public relations world: Children and dogs capture the attention of people and the press. Through my years in the PR arena and work across different industries, I have found this to be very true. Consequently, it should not be surprising that Wal-Mart aligned itself with First Lady Michelle Obama’s childhood obesity program and why you should focus on childhood health and wellness, if you haven’t done so.

Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, the prevalence of obesity among adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 has increased from 5% to 18.1%. These youth are more likely to have high cholesterol, high blood pressure and joint and bone concerns.

Of course, this means increased health problems as they mature. So, if you are looking to expand or enhance your corporate responsibility platform, childhood obesity is a natural. And if you don’t want to appear “me too” by following Wal-Mart’s exact plan, there are ways to support this niche and enhance your company’s reputation.

Although too many to address here, consider:

1) Does your benefits program offer guidance or support to those associates whose families are grappling with childhood obesity problems?

2) Do your community relations initiatives link to healthy foods, healthy eating and/or childhood exercise?

3) If you have a corporate foundation, is its platform linked to food education and/or youth exercise?

4) Do your private label options demonstrate your brand’s commitment to nutritious products designed for children and young people?

5) Does your web site identify healthy products, recipes, meal and snack planning, educational opportunities and tips designed with children and teens in mind?

If you opt to contribute to the childhood obesity solution, here are just a few of the possible advantages:

• Reputation enhancement

• Branding opportunities through marketing initiatives, private label products and employee ambassadorship

• Increased likelihood of gaining positive attention from the media, customers, government officials and special interest groups

• Your future employees could be healthier, thereby reducing potential healthcare costs

Even if you aren’t interested in being known as a childhood health and wellness pioneer, customers are beginning to expect participation in this effort. Therefore, it is wise to review your commitment to this issue now.