Interest in obesity soars by 294% in five years; education and litigation important influencers in obesity debate in US; leading brands top global attention

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Echo Research, leaders in brand reputation and analysis, today launched its global report on "Obesity in the Public Eye" in Geneva on the occasion of the WHO World Health Assembly. Drawing on some 9,000 media items published worldwide, EchoÂ?s research shows how the debate on obesity has soared 294% in five years.

— Echo Research, leaders in brand reputation and analysis, today launched its global report on "Obesity in the Public Eye" in Geneva on the occasion of the WHO World Health Assembly. Drawing on some 9,000 media items published worldwide, Echo’s research shows how the debate on obesity has soared 294% in five years.

Presented at the International Business Leaders Forum (IBLF)'s Partnership workshop, a private gathering of leading European and American companies from all sectors, Echo's research found that obesity is now firmly ranked alongside diabetes and cancer as a life threatening issue in today's society the world over. The research highlighted that the causes and the solutions put forward by leading commentators are either too one-sided or not comprehensive enough to battle the problem effectively.

Media in all regions focused on the worrying increase and impact of the disorder among children, with schools perceived as playing a key role in changing nutritional habits and behaviour.

However, messages and opinion formers varied significantly according to both political and social contexts:

  • The debate is highly politicised in the UK, with the Government leading calls for regulation on advertising, promotion, vending machines and food labeling.
  • In the USA, education is regarded as key but so too, in a land where class actions take over from individual responsibility, litigation is viewed as an essential tool to curb the obesity trend.
  • By contrast, in France with its heavy focus on pharmaceutical cures, medication is seen as a useful solution.

The media is apportioning much blame, with highly visible global brand names being at the center of the problem as well as offering potential solutions. Individuals’ responsibilities seem to be a particularly difficult concept to get across.

Marianne Eisenmann, Managing Director of Echo Research in North America, said: "educational bodies, companies, health professionals and policy-makers will have to engage in a major concerted effort to better inform the debate and press home messages on responsibilities and prevention if the public is to be clear about how to tackle a very real, and growing, problem."

Methodology

The research was conducted by Echo Research as a collaborating partner with the IBFL and HEAL Global Partnership. Echo analysed some 9,000 news items from Asia Pacific, France, the UK and the USA supplied by Factiva and published between April 2003 and March 2004. Articles appeared in daily, business and consumer magazines.

Background

Echo Research Group, global leaders in brand and reputation analysis and communications research, works to help organizations measure how they are perceived among different stakeholder groups and identify emerging issues to reputation. With 165 analysts, Echo has offices in London, Brussels, Paris, Stockholm and New York and its world-class clients include a quarter of the FTSE and Fortune 100. Echo works across a number of industry sectors, with particular expertise in Consumer, Financial Services, Health, IT, Telecommunications, Media, Professional Services, Public Sector and NGOs. More information and resources can be found at http://www.echoresearch.com

For further information, please contact:

Marianne Eisenmann

Managing Director North America

Echo Research Inc.

646 495 5416,

cell 781 492 5972

e-mail: MarianneE@echoResearch.com

Christophe Guibeleguiet

Research Director

44483 413637

mobile: 44 7968 828290

e-mail: ChristopheG@echoresearch.com

Nigel Middlemiss

CSR Practice Director

44 483 413650

mobile: 44 7771 636028

e-mail: NigelM@echoresearch.com

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Marianne Eisenmann