In a February ceremony, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) presented Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) with the first annual Fred Rogers Integrity Award for authoring the Healthy Lifestyles and Prevention (HeLP) America Act.
CCFC gives the annual award to a public figure who works to protect children from harmful marketing--and does so in way that it deems best embodies the commitment to children's well being by the late host of "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood."
The HeLP America Act, which APA endorsed, includes several provisions to reinstate the Federal Trade Commission's authority to restrict marketing to children. APA's Public Policy Office worked with Harkin's staff throughout the past year to develop many of the proposals included in the legislation. His office also drew from the final report of the APA Task Force on Children and Advertising in drafting the act, says Ellen Garrison, PhD, APA director of public interest policy.
If passed, the act would help protect children from tobacco advertising and limit the marketing of unhealthy food in schools. Its provisions also encourage children to adopt healthy lifestyles focused on nutrition and physical activity by requiring schools to create wellness policies and creating grant programs to support mental health screening and prevention services.
The HeLP America Act addresses a key recommendation of the APA Task Force on Children and Advertising report--which later became APA policy--that calls for legislation to restrict advertising targeted to children 8 years old and younger.
"Just as there is no one cause of obesity, there is no single solution.... If we are serious about beating the childhood obesity epidemic, then everyone must chip in--parents, schools, Congress, and yes, even the food industry," Harkin said as he accepted the award. CCFC is a national coalition of health-care professionals--including educators, advocacy groups, concerned parents and many APA members--working to combat the harmful effects of marketing to children.