Thursday, February 9, 2012

Atlanta Anti-Child Obesity Campaign Risks Stigma - Slate

A leading child health expert at the National Institutes of Health has lent his support to an effort to end a controversial anti-child obesity campaign that includes such taglines as "Chubby isn't cute if it leads to type two diabetes."

In a letter to the activist leading the counter-campaign, NIH's Alan Guttmacher said that the ads carry "a great risk of increasing stigma" around childhood obesity and, as a result, pose "risks to the psychological health" of obese adolescents.

The ads in question (two of which are pictured below) come from Georgia-based Strong4Life, which is run by Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. The group began putting up billboards in the Atlanta area this past August that couple stark black-and-white images of overweight children with warnings of health risks linked to obesity. The posters are accompanied by messages such as: "Being fat takes the fun out of being a kid," and "Fat prevention begins at home. And the buffet line." The group has also put out similarly-themed videos, which can be viewed here.

The aggressive campaign has sparked its fare share of debate, with online activists urging the group to take the ads down. As part of its counter-push, one of the activists reached out to a number of health experts to solicit their opinions, including Guttmacher, whose response was passed along to the BBC.

Strong4Life contends that the ads were meant to be controversial as a means of sparking debate, and were modeled after a recent anti-methamphetamine campaign deemed successful. Most of the billboards have been taken down as the anti-obesity campaign moves into its next phase, although the group says that some still remain in neighborhoods with particularly high child obesity rates.

Georgia has the second-highest child obesity rate in the nation. Mississippi, the southern state's western neighbor, nabs the top spot.