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July 17, 2002 Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343

"VERB: IT'S WHAT YOU DO"
Media Campaign to Increase Positive Physical and Social Behavior
Among the Nation's Youth


Overview: The "VERB: It's What You Do" Youth Media Campaign (YMC), launched by the Department for Health and Human Services (HHS) is a national, multicultural media campaign intended to promote physical activity and community involvement and displace unhealthy, risky behaviors among 9 to 13-year-olds, an age group known in marketing terms as "tweens." The campaign will use mass media, interactive media, partnerships and community events to help tweens increase their levels of physical and positive behavior.

The campaign encourages tweens to find a verb (such as run, paint, sing, dance, jump, skate, etc.) or several verbs that fit their personality and interests. The campaign then encourages tweens to use "their verb" as launching pad to better health and make regular physical activity and community involvement a lifetime pursuit.

BACKGROUND

HHS is encouraging tweens to lead healthy lifestyles including physical activity and community involvement. Tweens are currently facing unprecedented levels of obesity and obesity related diseases. In 1999, 13 percent of children and adolescents were overweight and the number of overweight adolescents has tripled since 1980. The percentage of young people who are overweight has more than doubled in the past 20 years, bringing with it a dramatic increase in type 2 diabetes among the nation's youth. In addition, studies indicate that a child or tween who is overweight or obese will continue to be overweight or obese as an adult, and that carries with it increased risks of heart disease, stroke and cancer.

It is crucial to stem the propensity among tweens to lead lifestyles devoid of substantial positive physical and "prosocial" activity. Prosocial activity is defined by the campaign as getting kids involved with positive organizations or groups, such as school clubs, community groups or religious organizations. The VERB campaign is intended to deliver the message to kids that being active is an important part of being healthy.

Physical Activity: Physical activity promoted by VERB is not limited to the standard concepts of exercise, such as calisthenics and team sports. Instead, VERB encourages tweens to embrace a physical activity that appeals to their personality, be it gardening, bowling, dancing, skateboarding, jumping rope, swimming or playing basketball. The point is for kids to increase activity levels.

Prosocial Activity: Prosocial activity promoted by VERB is about helping tweens build alliances with peer groups and/or conventional institutions from which they can learn positive and healthy habits. School-sponsored drama clubs, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, religious groups geared for tweens, Boys & Girls clubs, or just a group of tweens whom informally gather for a positive activity are all considered positive bases for prosocial activity.

GOALS

The primary goal of the "VERB: It's What You Do" Youth Media Campaign (YMC) is to reduce the proportion of children and adolescents who are overweight and sedentary. Children who are engaged in positive activities are better able to meet the demands of daily physical activity, experience greater self-esteem, confidence and discipline, school achievement, social connectedness and positive family relationships than their sedentary peers.

Benefits: According to HHS' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there are a number of benefits of physical and prosocial activity for tweens.

Get parents, coaches, and other adults involved: An important component of the campaign will reach the parents, teachers, coaches, and other adults who influence tweens' lives with messages about what they can do to encourage healthy habits such as increased physical and prosocial activity.

Reduce "Screen Time": Experts attribute obesity in children and adults to lifestyle behaviors. Chief among the behaviors that lead to overweight and obesity is the amount of time spent in a sedentary position, including watching television, playing video games or using a computer. This activity is referred to as "Screen Time" and one of the VERB goals is to reduce the hours tweens dedicate to screen time everyday and replace it with positive physical and prosocial activity.

The average tween spends four and a half hours each day in front of a screen. This includes watching television, video-tapes or DVDs, playing video games, using a computer or browsing the Internet. Television is the medium with which children spend the most time -- two and a half hours each day.

MEDIA OUTREACH

The campaign will use the best principles of marketing and communications to deliver important messages to young people about the importance of building healthy habits early in life. The campaign will be fun and will include critical components such as a national events tour and interactive media -- the same campaign elements used by those who are successfully reaching young people.

Timing: The first VERB advertisements aired June 17 on media outlets attractive to kids. Initially the campaign will focus on getting kids excited about increasing the amount of physical and prosocial activity in their lives, and helping their parents to see the importance of physical and prosocial activity to the overall health of their kids. The brand introduction will continue to evolve over the coming months with additional activities and events coming at the beginning of the school year.

Campaign Partners: There are a number of private partners who are providing services, air time, or sponsoring events to help HHS reach a wide audience of tweens. Partners include Disney, AOL Time Warner, Viacom and Primedia.

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Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at www.hhs.gov/news.

Last revised: July 17, 2002