Julie Sneider
View from the Waiting Room

MPTV campaigns for a Fit Generation

By - Apr 26th, 2010 04:00 am

As a television executive, it would be understandable if Ellis Bromberg was wary of an advertising campaign that encourages kids to spend less time watching TV.

Ellis Bromberg, photo courtesy MPTV

But Bromberg is an enthusiastic supporter of the “I Am the Fit Generation” campaign on Milwaukee Public Television (MPTV), where he is the general manager. Launched earlier this month, the campaign is an MPTV pilot project in partnership with Children’s Health Education Center in Milwaukee to combat the alarming rise in childhood obesity. It includes commercials aimed at children ages 4 to 12 to eat a healthy diet and get more exercise.

Noting that 28 percent of Wisconsin children are overweight, Bromberg said MPTV’s involvement in the Fit Generation is part of the station’s long tradition of serving children.

“MPTV can reach parents and children to educate and encourage them to adopt healthy habits that include good nutrition and daily exercise,” he said.

To get that healthy point across, MPTV produced three 60-second public service announcements with The Figureheads, a Madison-based music group that uses hip hop and rap to send positive messages about life to kids. The spots, which also feature students from a Milwaukee school, advise kids to consume five servings of fruit and vegetables, four servings of water (instead of soda) and three servings of low-fat dairy products a day.

And in a healthy hit at TV, the spots challenge kids to cut out two hours of “screen time” per day and get physically active.

Although MPTV has been airing educational programs like Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers for decades, the Fit Generation campaign is the first time the station has been directly involved in a health care initiative, Bromberg said. The idea evolved after Bromberg heard from local educators and health officials that the problem of childhood obesity is getting worse in Wisconsin.

The percentage of overweight kids in the state now exceeds the percentage of overweight adults.

“As we talked about it internally, we thought ‘here is something local officials told us is an issue and we play a role in,’” Bromberg said. “With our long-term commitment to children, we also thought about the fact that we are able to reach them. We have a unique platform that gives us a presence in folks’ homes through the TV set, and we have an audience of young children and parents. So this campaign is a good fit for us.”

The campaign will roll out more on and off-air events over the spring and summer, including in-school workshops, summer programs for kids at Milwaukee-area libraries, and programs for parents on healthy living. MPTV also created a “Healthy Habits Tracker” activity guide for kids to log progress in their eating, exercise and personal hygiene habits. Children who complete the Tracker and mail it to the station by July 15 will receive a one-week family guest pass to any YMCA.

Children’s Health Education Center, an entity of Children’s Hospital and Health System in Wauwatosa, is providing the health and nutrition education at the workshops and provided facts and data used in the campaign.

Bridget Clementi, the center’s executive director, praised MPTV for taking on a critical health issue for children.

“In reality, kids are watching TV and MPTV is quality television for kids to be engaged in,” Clementi said. “That’s why this campaign is a great way for us to showcase what healthy lifestyles can be and to take time in between television programs to reinforce that message.”

The campaign was paid for with grants from the Brewers Community Foundation, Cordon Family Foundation, Dorothy Watkins Inbusch Foundation, Greater Milwaukee Foundation Norman & Ida Sinske Fund and the Charles D. Jacobus Family Foundation. Bromberg and Clementi hope to raise additional funds to expand the campaign to other cities.

Bromberg also hopes to produce as many as 15 of the PSAs with The Figureheads and share the messages with public television stations in other markets.

“Obviously we hope this campaign does some good,” Bromberg said. “What we’ve put together is entertaining for young people, but it also gets the message across in a positive way.”

You can view other PSA videos here and here.

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