Georgia Childhood Obesity Ad
January 5, 2012 by staff
One of the black-and-white posters of a gloomy-looking overweight girl is emblazoned with the statement: “Warning. It’s hard to be a little girl if you’re fat.” Another ad, under a sad-faced boy, reads: “Fat prevention begins at home. And the buffet line.”
The campaign’s videos are equally frank and grim. In one, a plump girl says, “I don’t like going to school because all the other kids pick on me. It hurts my feelings.” In another, an obese boy asks his overweight mom, “Why am I fat?”
Georgia Children’s Health Alliance initially launched its $50 million Strong4Life campaign last summer to address the state’s pressing childhood obesity epidemic. At the start of this year, the organization ramped up its efforts with a series of billboards and TV ads meant to “stop sugar-coating” the problem. “We needed something that was more arresting and in your face than some of the flowery campaigns out there,” Linda Matzigkeit, senior vice president of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, told ABC News.
But many people think the ads are too shocking and counterproductive.
“It might actually make people feel worse,” Marsha Davis, who researches child obesity prevention at the University of Georgia’s College of Public Health, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Experts are also saying the campaign only underlines the problem and fails to offer helpful solutions. “I agree that more needs to be done to raise awareness about childhood obesity,” Marjorie Nolan, national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics told, Yahoo! Shine. “But these ads lack a message of what should be done to ultimately solve the problem.”
“We know from communication research that when we highlight a health risk but fail to provide actionable steps people can take to prevent it, the response is often either denial or some other dysfunctional behavior,” Karen Hilyard, a health communication researcher at UGA, told the Journal-Constitution.
Kids are getting fatter and fatter here in America and it’s all happening at an alarming rate. The number of overweight children has tripled since 1980, and today one in three American kids (ages 2 to 19) are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And in Georgia, where 1 million children are considered overweight the situation is especially dire. The state ranks second in the nation for childhood obesity. These children are all at an increased risk for developing such diseases as diabetes and hypertension.
How can these children be helped? Increasing awareness of the problem is the strategy behind Children’s Healthcare’s campaign. The organization’s research found that 50 percent of people surveyed didn’t recognize childhood obesity as a problem. What’s more, 75 percent of parents with overweight kids didn’t acknowledge their child as having a weight issue. “We felt like we needed a very arresting, abrupt campaign that said: ‘Hey, Georgia! Wake up. This is a problem,’ ” Matzigkeit told the Journal-Constitution.
And while the ads have been met with criticism, some are saying the harsh approach is absolutely necessary. “I think it’s really brave to talk about the elephant in the room,” Maya Walters, a teenager with high blood pressure who appeared in one of the ads, shared with the Journal-Constitution. “It’s very provocative and makes people uncomfortable, but it’s when people are uncomfortable that change comes.”
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