September 16, 2007/Lab Business Week -- According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 16% of children and adolescents in the U.S. were overweight as of 2002, and the prevalence of childhood obesity has been rising steadily over the past two decades. Most U.S. adults and parents with children under the age of 12 worry about childhood obesity, with more than eight in 10 (84%) U.S. adults believing it is "a major problem" and 78% of parents saying the same.

A large majority of both groups believes that parents, above a wide variety of other groups, can have the greatest impact in reducing childhood obesity; majorities of U.S. adults (83%) and parents (85%) both say that parents have the greatest impact. However, many adults also feel that schools, government and the food industry have a role to play.

These are some of the results of an online survey of 2,503 U.S. adults, ages 18 and older, of whom 573 are parents or guardians of children age 12 or younger, conducted by Harris Interactive between August 6 and 8, 2007 for The Wall Street Journal Online's Health Industry Edition (www.wsj.com/health).

Compared to one year ago, adults are more likely to consider advertising directed to children as a major contributor to the rising rate of childhood obesity (78% versus 65%). They are also increasingly likely to believe that government should play a more active role in regulating the types of marketing and advertising that the food industry directs toward children (60% versus 53%) and that public schools should do more to limit children's access to unhealthy foods (88% versus 83%). A large majority (94%) also believes that public schools should do more to promote regular exercise.

Some of the nation's largest food and drinks companies recently announced that they will make a number of changes in their marketing practices to children and these initiatives are favored by most adults and parents with children under the age of 12. Most adults and parents favor implementing the use of child-friendly characters to promote healthier foods (91% of adults, 92% of parents), limiting advertising to healthier foods (73%, 75%), and restricting the use of popular characters from television shows and movies (64%, 63%). Far fewer (43%, 45%), by comparison, favor prohibiting advertising to children under the age of 12.

From the September 10, 2007, Prepared Foods e-Flash