Obama May Take Softer Approach on Kids' Obesity

Campaign Trail: Policy Director Says Curbs on Ads Have Not Been Discussed

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DENVER (AdAge.com) -- The Obama campaign's senior director of domestic policy spent nearly an hour on Monday talking about plans for attacking childhood obesity. Absent from the discussion was mention of any advertising or marketing restrictions on "junk food."

Though congressional Democrats have frequently complained about such ads -- and have warned about the potential of advertising regulation if marketers don't act -- Melody Barnes instead suggested that an Obama administration would take a holistic approach toward childhood obesity that includes the possibility of greater federal funding for physical education, new programs to encourage health insurance companies to pay for preventative health care, more education about food choices and better school menus.

Ms. Barnes and Karen Kornbluh, principal author of the 2008 Democratic Party Platform -- a platform that mentions obesity as an issue -- spoke at a forum of The Obesity Society at the Democratic National Convention. After the forum, Ms. Barnes said she wouldn't rule out restrictions on marketing but said the subject of them had never come up in discussions on obesity. "We haven't talked about that."

She said the campaign has also not talked specifically about expanding federal advertising intended to promote a healthier lifestyle or healthy food choices to kids but said that doing so would be consistent with the campaign's view that the president could be making more use of the "bully pulpit."

Ms. Barnes said Mr. Obama does have "a real commitment" to attacking childhood obesity and is "looking at various ways to drive home the message."

Ms. Kornbluh said the obesity issue was mentioned in the platform because of real concerns and the effort is a part of the Democratic Party's attempt to demonstrate that it is focusing on "family values."

The Obesity Society is pushing both political parties to include obesity in their platforms. Monday's event at the Democratic convention will be followed next week by one at the GOP convention.
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