Lifestyle & Belief

Georgia anti-obesity ad campaign stirs controversy (VIDEO)


Georgia's latest anti-obesity ads, which target children, are sparking controversy.



Georgia’s latest anti-obesity campaign, which features young children talking bluntly about their weight, has caught the attention of people across the country.

“Mom, why am I fat?” a young boy asks his mother in one ad. In the next, a young girl says she hates going to school because other children tease her about her weight. The overarching message in the ads tells Georgia to “stop sugarcoating it.”

Georgia has the second highest childhood obesity rate in the United States, ABC News reported.

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A 2009 study showed that “a majority of parents of obese and overweight children underestimate their child’s weight,” the Washington Post reported. The Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta started running these aggressive ads to raise awareness about childhood obesity a year after the study's release, focusing on what obesity means to children.

“We felt like we needed a very arresting, abrupt campaign that said: ‘Hey, Georgia! Wake up. This is a problem,’ ” said Linda Matzigkeit, a senior vice president at Children’s Healthcare, who leads the system’s wellness projects, the Atlanta Constitution Journal reported.

But many critics of the campaign feel the ads end up stigmatizing children, rather than actually solving the problem. Critics fear the ads are too blunt to stimulate action.

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"Blaming the victim rarely helps," said Dr. Miriam Labbok, director of the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, ABC News reported. "These children know they are fat and that they are ostracized already."

But the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is sticking with its “Strong4Life” campaign. "We needed something that was more arresting and in your face than some of the flowery campaigns out there," said Matzigkeit, ABC News reported.

The series of ads are a part of of a $50 million campaign in Georgia. There are nearly one million obese children in the state, and 75 percent of parents of an obese child don’t recognize the problem, CBS News reported.

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