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February 2, 2012

Combining Children with Scare Tactics in Georgia’s Anti-Obesity Campaign

Two images from the Strong4Life anti-obesity ad campaign sponsored by Children's Health Care Atlanta.
Two images from the Strong4Life anti-obesity ad campaign sponsored by Children's Health Care Atlanta.

In the state with the nation’s second highest rate of childhood obesity, one organization has adopted the kind of shock advertising tactics previously reserved for anti-smoking campaigns.  And despite the claims of Georgia’s Strong4Life campaign spokespeople that the parents of overweight children are the intended audience, the captions in these anti-obesity ads tell a different story.

For one thing, the use of the second person pronoun speaks directly to those who might identify with Tina, the little girl in the image on the left.  The caption makes a claim about the difficulty of childhood for little girls who aren’t little, yet it reads “if you’re not.” Note that it doesn’t say if she’s not – an important distinction no matter your opinion of semantics. Similarly, the caption for Bobby’s picture (on the right), tells us that “fat prevention” takes place in the “buffet line” – a space of personal agency.

The somber expression and direct gaze of the children reads as accusatory in some images and pleading in others.  The children stare down the camera, and the stark black and white of the images serves to emphasize the grim nature of their predicament.  Combined with the inflammatory captions, the ads consciously manipulate feelings of guilt and fear in an effort to capture attention. Which they do, quite effectively; it’s just a question of whose attention they’re trying to get.

– Cate Blouke

  • Anonymous

    These ads may give schoolyard bullies a new sense of righteousness in teasing obese children “for their own good.”   They certainly don’t promote positive self-esteem.  Overeating – if that is indeed the cause of childhood obesity - is an indication of other problems which these ads will only make worse.

    • Less_than_sacred

       These ads are made by adults that were childhood bullies!

  • Thirdeye Pushpin

    There is also an ambiguous gender quality in the picture on the right…fat boy looks like girl with breasts, but very clear message that girls should be girls and petite and boys simply should not….

    disturbing unconscious memes…

  • Anonymous

    The only thing billboards, such as these, do is to stigmatize people and set them up for weight cycling.  Rebecca Puhl, PhD, director of research at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University in New Haven stated in a recent interview, “The real reality is that significant, sustainable weight loss is not achievable for most people.” She adds, “We know that the most that we can really expect people to lose and keep off over time from conventional weight loss programs is about 10% of body weight.”
     
    “Of course, some people lose more than that, but the vast majority regains that weight within one to five years,” she says.
     
    Studies show that dieting, even that considered “naturalistic”, among young people lead to weight cycling [Naturalistic weight reduction efforts predicted weight gain and onset of obesity in adolescent girls; http://ebn.bmj.com/content/3/3/88.full
     
    There is an evidence-based compassionate alternative to conventional dieting: Health At Every Size®. For more information on Health At Every Size, you can find a general explanation on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_at_Every_Size) or find in-depth research-based information in the book Health At Every Size – The Surprising Truth About Your Weight by Dr. Linda Bacon (http://www.lindabacon.org/HAESbook/).

  • http://profiles.google.com/thomasgokey Thomas Gokey

    WARNING: It’s hard to be a little girl if you’re not. For example, we might make an add shaming you for not being a little girl. See! See how hard it is! Well, we told you so.

  • Tim

    I guess my question is…

    If obesity related illnesses are as destructive to our well-being, as well as costly to our health care system as smoking is, why would we not resort to these kind of tactics…

    we’re far past the point where we should be alarmed…

    • Violet

      If only long term weight loss, or even weight maintenance, was as *easy* as quitting smoking…

  • Less_than_sacred

    This is nothing more than hateful Americanized Nazi propaganda. Nice to see people care but with ads like this, do they really care about the kids?

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