WHO urges countries of eastern Europe and central Asia to monitor and limit digital marketing of unhealthy products to children


During a press conference, WHO alerts the authorities and the general public to the danger of digital marketing of unhealthy products to children and adolescents

With the launch of the Russian version of the report “Monitoring and restricting the digital marketing of unhealthy products to children and adolescents” on 27 May 2019, the Moscow-based WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCD Office) sought to equip the Russian-speaking countries of eastern Europe and central Asia with practical tools to better monitor the digital marketing of alcohol, tobacco and unhealthy food products, especially those high in salt, sugar and fat.

Hosted by TASS, one of the leading Russian news agencies, the press conference aimed to alert authorities and the general public about the fact that children and adolescents are a continuous target of the advertising industry. The industry persistently promotes unhealthy products on social media and on difficult-to-track mobile devices.
Alarming trends

“The advertising industry makes youth change their consumption patterns and heavily promotes unhealthy foods,” said Dr João Breda, Head of the NCD Office. “Between 70% and 80% of food advertisements are for unhealthy products. Monitoring the online advertising of unhealthy foods to children is critical, as the onset of NCDs that are linked to smoking, alcohol abuse and the intake of unhealthy foods can be prevented if major risk factors and behaviours are addressed.”

Dr Oksana Drapkina, Chief Therapist of the Russian Ministry of Health and Head of the Medical Research Center for Preventive Medicine, voiced an alarming trend: a growing number of Russian men who are overweight, accounting for 29% of the total male population. This shows a threefold increase compared to 2003.

“Obesity is the real scourge of our century. Advertisements encourage teens to eat more and move less. Everywhere – on the streets, on the web and on television – you see mouthwatering advertisements for foods. As a result, in the Russian Federation, like in other countries, more and more people are getting obese,” said Dr Drapkina.

WHO creates the CLICK tool

To equip governments with a practical tool to monitor digital marketing, WHO developed a flexible monitoring framework that can be adapted to national settings. CLICK stands for the following:

  • Comprehend the digital ecosystem
  • Landscape campaigns
  • Investigate exposure
  • Capture on-screen
  • Knowledge sharing

WHO believes that the CLICK tool could help sensitize national governments to the harm of digital marketing of unhealthy foods and catalyse action to protect children from advertisements for unhealthy foods and for tobacco and alcohol.