Are Anti-Obesity Ads Too Harsh or Just What the Doctor Ordered?

Georgia Children's Health Alliance created the new anti-obesity campaign which features images of obese children.

Georgia has released a new ad campaign to raise awareness of the problem with childhood obesity. The ads are shot in black and white, somber, and draw a very clear picture on why children are becoming obese and what the repercussions are — at the doctor’s office and the playground. The billboards feature photos of overweight children and slogans like, “Big bones didn’t make me this way. Big meals did.”

The website clearly states, “Georgia has a childhood obesity problem and a community that has had enough.” Continuing at the bottom of the page, “Ignoring this problem is what got us here. It’s time to wake up.”

While some fear that the campaign will only increase the stigma and discrimination against the overweight, others are applauding the campaign for its audacious attempt to get people to listen. Per the CBS News website, the Georgia Children’s Health Alliance defends the campaign, saying it needed to “jar parents of obese kids out of a state of denial that their children had a problem.”

Georgia has the second highest rate of childhood obesity in the U.S., with nearly one million overweight or obese children. According to the website, one of the reasons they started the campaign is because they want to be the “first southern state to fix the problem.”

The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance decries the ads saying, “Billboards depicting fat kids are extraordinarily harmful to the very kids they are supposedly trying to help.” And Rebecca Puhl, a Yale psychologist specializing in weight discrimination, states that “Stigma is never a motivator” and “We need to be sure we are fighting obesity, not obese people.”

Niceties aside, like the anti-smoking campaigns that have taken 30 years to lower the percentage of US smokers to less than 20%, the campaign to reduce obesity rates will take time. And like the warnings on boxes of cigarettes that state, “WARNING: This product causes cancer.” — maybe it’s time that we handle obesity like the killer it is and the money-drain it will continue to be on our economy as the epidemic creates a population with a lifetime of obesity related health issues.

It’s no secret that obesity causes type-2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, liver and kidney disease. But every family in America needs to understands that what and how they eat is causing their weight to climb to unhealthy levels. Maybe someday soon we will see food labels warning that” high fat content causes hypertension” or taxes on sugared drinks to help deter people from stocking up on unhealthy food,  but until then education is the only tool available.

See all the videos in the series here.

Do you think that the ads will unfairly target already stigmatized obese children? Or do you think that this is just the kind of wake-up call parents need to see that they are culpable in their children’s weight issues?

Photo and Video Courtesy of: ©2011 Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Inc.

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