Georgia tackles childhood obesity in a new way

Let’s begin with some statistics from the state of Georgia:

Almost forty percent of children in the state of Georgia are overweight or obese. That is the second-highest rate in the country, and several states follow closely behind. More shocking, fifty percent of Georgians think childhood obesity is no big deal. Most shocking, a staggering seventy-five percent of parents of obese children in Georgia do not think it is a problem. The Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the state’s largest pediatric healthcare system, provided these statistics as well as what should be a fear-inducing wake-up call for parents not only in Georgia, but all over the country.

Children’s Healthcare stepped up after these numbers came out. They put together an ad campaign meant to portray obese children and their parents, and the roles that they play in society. The campaign included print ads and commercials starring obese kids and harsh slogans like “It’s hard to be a little girl if you’re not,” and “Being fat takes the fun out of being a kid.”

So why the harsh content?

Chief Administrative Officer Linda Matzigkeit says “We felt that because there was so much denial that we needed to make people aware that this is a medical crisis.” Which it certainly is. She continued with “We knew flowery ads don’t get people’s attention. We wanted to come up with something arresting and hard-hitting to grab people,” and it certainly has.

The controversy began right after the ads were revealed. Critics of the ad campaign (called Strong4Life) feel that it antagonizes obese children without providing any solutions. As a result of much more negative feedback, the ads stopped airing in October and all but a few billboards have been taken down. However, the Strong4Life campaign has sparked a conversation that is still happening in Georgia and has spread nationwide.

I think the people at Children’s Healthcare in Atlanta are extremely brave. Though some thought the stark ads might be harmful to children, I think their intent was to be an advocate for obese and overweight children. While it is true that there were some flaws with the campaign, such as not providing solutions to accompany the awareness and possibly creating low self-esteem, the most important thing is that the message is out there. Parents of overweight and obese children are beginning to see it as an issue, and are starting to do something about it. I think these ads will ultimately change the lives of many obese children, and their families alike.

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