No. 3, July 2004
FROM THE EDITOR IN CHIEF
Lynne S. Wilcox, MD, MPH
Suggested citation for this article:
Wilcox LS. Summertime. Prev Chronic Dis [serial online] 2004 Jul [date
cited]. Available from: URL: http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2004/
Dandelion Wine is a lyrical coming-of-age story set in Green Town,
Illinois, in the early 20th century (1). Douglas Spaulding is 12
years old, and summertime has arrived. When it’s a new summer, you need
new shoes. In fact, you need “Royal Crown Cream-Sponge Para Litefoot
Tennis Shoes.” But Doug doesn’t have the money. He bargains with Mr.
Sanderson, the proprietor of the local shoe store:
“Soon as I get those shoes on, you know what happens?
. . . Bang! I
deliver your packages, pick up packages, bring your coffee, burn your trash,
run to the post office, telegraph office, library! You’ll see twelve of me
in and out, in and out, every minute.”
Many readers older than 50 will recognize Doug. He may have a
different name, he may want a bike instead of tennis shoes, he may like root
beer instead of lemonade. Still, it’s summertime, and he’s in 12 places all
That story took place more than 75 years ago. Today, too few U.S. children enjoy
the magic of an active, outdoor summer. They may not even recognize the
season, because most of their entertainment is indoors and sedentary.
Children spend up to four-and-a-half hours each day in front of a television
or computer screen (2). I recently made a field trip to a large toy store.
The front of the store was filled with music videos, computer games, DVDs, and other entertainment technologies that require little physical
effort. Where were the bicycles, skate boards, and soccer balls? Along
the back wall of the store.
It seems unlikely that toy manufacturers and store managers are plotting
to keep kids sedentary. They are simply following good market practice by
displaying their most popular merchandise in prominent locations. Meanwhile,
obesity among individuals aged six to 19 years has tripled since the 1960s
The July issue of Preventing Chronic Disease includes two articles
on VERB™, a multiethnic campaign to promote physical activity
among tweens, or children aged nine to 13 years (4,5). Congress appropriated
$125 million in 2001 to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
to develop a national media campaign to change children’s health
behaviors. The VERB campaign features general media spots for all children,
special spots directed toward ethnic and racial groups, and parent materials
to encourage children’s physical activity. Campaign planners use process
and outcome evaluations to assess the effectiveness of this mass communications
approach to changing the attitudes and behaviors of tweens and their parents
The design and operation of the VERB campaign is a remarkable
achievement. If the evaluation results show changes in children’s physical
activity levels over time, the campaign will be an even more noteworthy
accomplishment. Both the successes and challenges of developing and
implementing such campaigns in the United States are discussed in a
commentary in this issue (6). While VERB targets only children aged nine to 13, the campaign hopes to shape the
attitudes and behaviors of these individuals as they age: marketers of other
products for tweens have found that children who become consumers of a
product often are loyal to those products into adulthood (7).
VERB offers public health lessons beyond the nuts and bolts of this
campaign. First, to affect the health habits of a generation, address the
cohort moving from childhood to early adolescence — when kids begin to
make their own decisions and to experience influences beyond the home.
Second, to create major changes in public attitudes, commit serious
resources. VERB demonstrates that with proper financial investment, public
health messages can attract wide attention. Third, know your audience. Time
spent researching the interests of a special group can make the difference
between an effective campaign and an ineffective one. Fourth, to create a
credible public health campaign, include evaluation of results as an
These statements seem simple and self-evident, but many public health
professionals have spent their careers in underfunded programs. Lack of
resources may cause audience research and results evaluation to take a back
seat to the overwhelming pressures of launching a new campaign. VERB provides an excellent example of how to use social marketing
principles, which include research and evaluation, to design a successful national
public health campaign.
Back in Green Town, Doug persuades Mr. Sanderson to try a pair of Litefoot tennis shoes:
[Sanderson] laced the tennis shoes to his long narrow feet. They
looked detached and alien down there next to the dark cuffs of his business
suit. . . . [H]e began to sink deep in the shoes, to flex his toes, limber
his arches, test his ankles. He rocked softly, secretly, back and forth in a
small breeze from the open door.
Then, Mr. Sanderson hands Doug a pair of Litefoot shoes and listens wistfully
to the boy running away down the street.
Dandelion Wine was set during a time when adults put their
tennis shoes away with their youth. Over the last decade, U.S. adults as well as children
have demonstrated sharp rises in obesity. All of us can
benefit from lacing up our tennis shoes and joining Doug and the kids of
VERB in running away into summertime.
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- Bradbury R. Dandelion wine. New York (NY): Bantam Books;1976. (First
published in its entirety by Doubleday & Company in 1957.) 239 p.
- Woodard EH. Media in the home
2000: the fifth annual survey of parents and children. Philadelphia (PA): The
Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania; 2000.
- Ogden CL, Flegal KM, Carroll MD,
Johnson CL. Prevalence and trends in overweight among U.S. children and
adolescents, 1999-2000. JAMA 2002;288:1728-32.
- Wong F, Huhman M, Heitzler C, Asbury L, Bretthauer-Mueller
R, McCarthy S, et al. VERB™ — a social marketing campaign to increase
physical activity among youth. Prev Chronic Dis [serial online]
2004 Jul [15 June 2004]. Available from: URL: http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2004/jul/04_0043.htm.
- Huhman M, Heitzler C, Wong F. The
VERB™ campaign logic model: a tool for planning and evaluation. Prev
Chronic Dis [serial online] 2004 Jul [15 June 2004]. Available from: URL: http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2004/jul/04_0033.htm.
- Bauman A.
Commentary on the VERB™ campaign — perspectives on social marketing to
encourage physical activity among youth. Prev Chronic Dis [serial
online] 2004 Jul [15 June 2004]. Available from: URL: http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2004/
- Sutherland A, Thompson B. Kidfluence: why kids today mean business. Toronto
(Ontario): McGraw-Hill Ryerson; 2001. Chapter 10, Kids as future
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