“ITS HARD TO BE A LITTLE GIRL IF YOU’RE NOT” is the tagline attached to a controversial childhood obesity ad in Georgia.  The ad depicts a young overweight “little” girl.  There are several other ads not quite as harsh, but still questionable at best according to many health experts.  The state of Georgia reports that 40% of their children are either obese or overweight and parents are in denial.  In an effort to fight this serious dilemma, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has started a Strong4Life campaign depicting a series of overweight children.  They bring up issues that come with being fat such as bullying and health problems.  But some would say the ads are fighting the children and not the obesity. When first hearing about the controversy of the ad prior to actually seeing it, I thought, “I’m sure someone is being over sensitive and taking something out of context.”  Then I watched the video in its entirety and saw several ads. (see link at the end of this article)

Here are my thoughts.  There is no argument that the ads are indeed effective.  The goals of any public campaign are to 1) bring awareness to the problem and 2) get people to act on the problem.  In that sense the ads will likely be successful   The ads are great eye openers for parents, but at what cost.  Will the ads also succeed in doing the following?

  • Make obese children even more ashamed?
  • Send the message to other kids that overweight kids should lose weight if they don’t want to be bullied?
  • Further perpetuate the idea that obese people are somehow inferior to “normal” size people?

It is no secret that the childhood obesity problem is on the rise across America.  And because obesity is a serious problem and leads to many costly health problems for the individual as well as overall healthcare, I applaud Georgia for taking some type of aggressive approach to this issue.  Something definitely needs to be done.  And the reality is, it starts with the parents since these children have very little control over what is brought into the house.  But if the parents are slow to victory over their own stronghold, how can we as a culture encourage children to make healthy choices on their own?

I love what Michelle Obama has been doing on the Disney Channel to motivate children to eat healthy and exercise.  Beyonce’ even has a youtube video encouraging kids to “get moving”.  The point is, there are many methods to encourage children to make personal health choices.  I am just not sure the best method is to have pictures of fat kids with tag lines that say, “BEING FAT TAKES THE FUN OUT OF BEING A KID”.  That statement is not true for all kids.  It is like telling overweight children, “You shouldn’t be happy because you’re fat.”  What if an overweight kid who leads a relatively happy and bully-free life reads the ad.  I wonder how that might change his or her view of themselves and the life that he or she “thought” was happy.

Having said all that, hopefully the Strong4Life Campaign will do well.  And even though some of the taglines may make some a little uncomfortable, it personally made me take my children’s health a lot more seriously.  The reality of children getting adult diseases is a striking awareness.  It’s just unfortunate that the 25 million dollars spent on the campaign couldn’t have been better spent on some after school fitness classes or something.  Just a thought…

Please view the video in its entirety up to the point when the reporter begins her segment on the correlation between working moms and overweight children.  Take a look at the ads and “weigh in”.  We’d love to hear what the readers think.