Harsh Childhood Obesity Ads: Effective or Stigmatizing?

 

A new, in-your-face ad campaign in Georgia against childhood obesity is sparking controversy among health experts.

The ads feature overweight children along with blunt messages such as, “It’s hard to be a little girl if you’re not.”

While the ads certainly have raised awareness of the problem of childhood obesity, they may not be the best way to tackle the issue, some experts say. Moreover, in an effort to be direct, the ads may be too minimal, neglecting to inform the public about ways to prevent obesity or the health risks associated with the condition.

“Unfortunately, they kind of give a call to action, but they don’t say what is the action,” said Nancy Copperman, director of public health initiatives at the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in Great Neck, N.Y. “They don’t necessarily look at any solutions to the issue in the ads.”

And by omitting possible solutions, the ads become open to interpretation, Copperman said. Some may see the ads as demeaning to overweight and obese children, she said.

The campaign, called Strong4Life, is sponsored by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. The campaign’s creators say they intended it to be a wake-up call for Georgia, which has the second highest rate of childhood obesity in the nation. Children’s Healthcare says it decided to run the campaign with a straightforward message after a survey by the organization suggested that 75 percent of parents of obese children did not think their kids were overweight, according to ABC News.

Such “scare tactics” have been used in the past to curb teen smoking and drug abuse. However, unlike these earlier campaigns, Copperman said, the Georgia obesity ads do not include a call to action (such as “Quit smoking” or “Say no to drugs”).

Critics of the campaign argue that it is unfairly casting parents and the cause of children being obese.  Experts argue that there are numerous problems, such as societal norms and marketing tactics aimed at children that are used by fast food restaurants that contribute to the problem and there is no single solution to the problem.

Others believe that any campaign of this sort should provide solutions and point out associated health risks of being overweight, such as the increased incidence of diabetes.  The sponsors of the Georgia campaign, Children’s Healthcare, state that they are tracking the impact of the ad campaign and won’t have information on its success or failure for some time.

Meanwhile everyone can agree that obesity is a major problem confronting not only children, but all adults in the United States.

The above story is based on an article written by Rachael Rettner, staff writer for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.  Follow My Health News Daily.  She can be followed on Twitter at  Twitter @RachaelRettner. Readers can find My Health News Daily and follow it on Facebook.

 

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