Child in controversial ad speaks out
Georgia's Controversial Anti-Childhood Obesity Campaign: Helpful or Hurtful?
The shocking images of overweight and obese children have some wondering if you can really shame people into caring about obesity. But the campaign organizers say the tactics are a necessary wake-up call to the state with nearly one million overweight or obese children.
By Sharon Tanenbaum
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Jan. 3, 2012— A controversial new anti-childhood obesity campaign’s use of black-and-white images of overweight children coupled with to-the-point messaging has caused quite a stir. Critics claim the campaign may cause additional stigma to obese children, while supporters insist the images are a necessary wake-up call for obese children and their parents.
In one of the five videos, an overweight adolescent is seen asking his overweight parent, “Mom, why am I fat?” The campaign features a “Stop sugarcoating it, Georgia,” tagline as a dose of brutal honesty hoping to shock its viewers into action.
Nearly one million children in Georgia are overweight or obese, according to the campaign sponsored by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. That makes the state the second worst when it comes to childhood obesity, behind Mississippi.
However while the problem in Georgia goes undisputed, the tactic of the campaign is a hot debate. “We felt like we needed a very arresting, abrupt campaign that said: ‘Hey, Georgia! Wake up. This is a problem,’” Linda Matzigkeit, a senior vice president at Children’s Healthcare, who leads the system’s wellness projects, told .
The campaign featuring billboards, commercials, and print ads sparked controversy when it officially launched last September. Some critics said the images just show a problem without providing an answer.
“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 the University of Georgia, told the AJC.
Others said that they may backfire and create more stigma surrounding childhood obesity.
“If we want to get attention to say obesity is a problem, maybe they will be effective,” Marsha Davis, child obesity prevention researcher at the University of Georgia’s College of Public Health told the AJC. “In terms of the social stigma about weight — it might actually make people feel worse about that. We need to fight obesity — not obese people.”
However, according to one of the children featured in the ads, the campaign is working. Maya Walters, a teen who had hypertension, appeared in the campaign but has since cut down on salt and isn’t winded by climbing the stairs.
“I think it’s really brave to talk about the elephant in the room,” she told the AJC after the campaign launched.
Video: Child in controversial ad speaks out
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