Right as calendars turned to 2012, many people criticized Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta for its stark, alarming anti-childhood obesity print and video ad campaign. It called on Georgians, who have the second highest childhood obesity rate, to “Stop Sugarcoating [the epidemic]” — all by using overweight child actors as the messengers.
Watch one of the ads for yourself:
The estimated $50 million, five-year campaign — Strong4Life — has become controversial because critics say it’s negative and further stigmatizes the children.
“Kids who are obese are too often shamed, ostracized and teased. And these ads target the children in a harsh and hopeless way,” said Dr. Michael Mantell, ACE Senior Consultant for Behavioral Sciences. “[The ads] also offer bullies more ammunition.”
These in-your-face ads may definitely get parents' attentions, but critics also say the print images and videos fail to communicate a clear solution.
"They offer no tools, hope, confidence or compassion," said Mantell.
ACE Senior Health Strategist, Dr. Adam Bordes, said that the health and fitness community needs to supply "easy-to-understand solutions geared toward helping people achieve their health and wellness goals, without guilting them."
Citing a new scientific statement published Tuesday in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, Mantell said that parental involvement — whether it be teaching healthy nutritional behavior, modeling increased physical activity or encouraging joint activity — is an essential ingredient to weight management.
An ad campaign showing parents and kids targeting their SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound) goals together might have been more effective, Mantell suggests.
Children may be the easy targets of the childhood obesity epidemic since they physically carry the weight, but really, the burden to get fit and achieve positive results rests on all of us.
5 ACE Resources to Visit for Youth Health, Fitness and Weight Loss Tips:
(for parents, educators and professionals)
REAL Inspirational Weight Loss Stories:
By the American Council on Exercise
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